Tobacco Industry Hid Smoking Dangers For Decades

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An article in The Lancet, to be published online on November 11th, says that documents made public as a result of a 1998 legal settlement show that Philip Morris sponsored secret research that revealed tobacco's addictive properties and the toxicity of second-hand smoke.

Lead author Dr. Pascal A. Diethelm, at OxyRomandie in Geneva and colleagues conducted a search of these documents, which were posted on public Websites, as well as other information they found.

Based on their findings, they say that "those involved in reviewing evidence on smoking and health should be aware of what appears to be the selective nature of what is eventually published by some scientists with links to the industry, and the evidence that sometimes mechanisms appear to have been used to disguise these links."

Internal memos that Diethelm's group cites showed that executives of Philip Morris first identified a need for the company to conduct its own biological research in 1968.

The company then bought a research facility in Germany, the Institut fur Industrielle und Biologische Forschung GmbH (INBIFO), which came on the market in 1970. Though 100-percent owned by Philip Morris, the investigators note, the company developed a complex mechanism to ensure that work done by INBIFO could not be linked back to the company.

According to the Lancet article, direct contact with INBIFO was avoided by routing information through another subsidiary, Fabriques de Tabac Reunies (FTR), and a coordinator whose main employment was at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Evidence showed that the company sought to maintain confidentiality over results of research conducted at INBIFO. In one memo from 1977 that the Lancet authors found, a senior Philip Morris executive stated, "we have gone to great pains to eliminate any written contact with INBIFO."

Information was often communicated verbally, on a "strict need to know basis," routed through FTR to avoid any direct contact with Philip Morris, or sent to home addresses where documents could be destroyed, Diethelm and his associates report.

In the 1980s, animal experiments conducted by INBIFO demonstrated high levels of toxicity from so-called sidestream smoke. Diethelm's team traced "more than 800 scientific reports dealing with sidestream smoke undertaken by INBIFO between 1981 and 1989."

However, they add, it was not until 1994 that researchers at INBIFO published research concerning sidestream smoke.

Studies published in scientific journals during this time "appear to be of considerable value to the industry," the investigators write, "casting doubt upon the value of markers of passive smoking and suggesting alternative explanations for the observed epidemiological association between passive smoking and lung cancer."

Tobacco industry hid early evidence of danger from passive smoking

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The tobacco industry for many years claimed that it was unaware of biological evidence that smoking is harmful to health. However, documents made public as a result of a 1998 legal settlement show that Philip Morris sponsored secret research that revealed tobacco's addictive properties and the toxicity of sidestream smoke, according to a report in The Lancet, to be published online on November 11th.

Lead author Dr. Pascal A. Diethelm, at OxyRomandie in Geneva and colleagues conducted a search of these documents, which were posted on public Websites, as well as articles they found by searching PubMed and the Internet using Google.

Based on their findings, they caution that "those involved in reviewing evidence on smoking and health should be aware of what appears to be the selective nature of what is eventually published by some scientists with links to the industry, and the evidence that sometimes mechanisms appear to have been used to disguise these links."

Internal memos that Dr. Diethelm's group cites revealed that executives of the company first identified a need to conduct its own biological research in 1968.

Philip Morris then bought a research facility in Germany, the Institut fur Industrielle und Biologische Forschung GmbH (INBIFO), which came on the market in 1970. Though 100% owned by Philip Morris, Dr. Diethelm's team notes, the company developed a complex mechanism to ensure that work done there could not be linked back to the company.

According to the Lancet article, direct contact with INBIFO was avoided by routing information through another subsidiary, Fabriques de Tabac Reunies, and a coordinator whose main employment was at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Evidence showed that the company sought to maintain confidentiality over results of research conducted at INBIFO. In one memo from 1977 that the Lancet authors found, a senior Philip Morris executive stated, "we have gone to great pains to eliminate any written contact with INBIFO."

Information was often communicated verbally, on a "strict need to know basis," routed through FTR to avoid any direct contact with Philip Morris, or sent to home addresses where documents could be destroyed, Dr. Diethelm and his associates report.

In the 1980s, animal experiments conducted by INBIFO demonstrated high levels of toxicity from sidestream smoke. Dr. Diethelm's team traced "more than 800 scientific reports dealing with sidestream smoke undertaken by INBIFO between 1981 and 1989." However, they add, it was not until 1994 that researchers at INBIFO published research concerning sidestream smoke.

Papers published in scientific journals during this time "appear to be of considerable value to the industry," Dr. Diethelm's team notes, "casting doubt upon the value of markers of passive smoking and suggesting alternative explanations for the observed epidemiological association between passive smoking and lung cancer."

Lancet 2004.
http://image.thelanet.com/extras/03art7306web.pdf

Study Finds Tobacco Companies Hid Data About Radioactive Material in Cigarettes

Polonium-210 in Cigarettes May Kill Thousands Worldwide Each Year

Washington, D.C.-A study published online today by the American Journal of Public Health finds that tobacco companies have suppressed research and information on the presence of the deadly radioactive poison, polonium 210 (PO-210), in tobacco and tobacco smoke.

Estimating that polonium-210 in cigarettes may annually cause the deaths of some 11,700 people from lung cancer worldwide, the study finds that for more than four decades, tobacco companies have known PO-210 is present in tobacco and tobacco smoke. The industry suppressed information about PO-210 out of concern that it would cause public relations and litigation problems and to avoid "waking a sleeping giant," as one industry official stated.

Summarizing prior research, the study states, "It is estimated that smokers of 1.5 packs of cigarettes a day are exposed to as much radiation as they would receive from 300 chest X-rays a year. PO-210 has been estimated to be responsible for 1% of all U.S. lung cancers.... PO-210 may be responsible for more than 1,600 deaths in the United States and 11,700 deaths in the world each year."

Polonium-210 received significant media attention in 2006 when it was found to have been used in the fatal poisoning of former KGB agent and Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko. That poisoning sent health officials across Europe and the former Soviet states to isolate the source and contain potential areas of deadly contamination.

"This study provides another important example of how tobacco companies willfully mislead the public about the dangers of their deadly products and cannot be trusted to tell the truth about their products," said Damon Moglen, International Advocacy Director for the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids.

"The bottom line is that smoking kills and before taking a puff, people deserve accurate information about the many poisons in cigarettes, including radioactive polonium-210, and the many diseases caused by tobacco use. Governments must take action to protect their citizens from this deception."

Governments can effectively combat the tobacco industry's manipulation, and reduce tobacco use, by ratifying the world's first public health treaty and implementing a set of interventions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) called MPOWER. These interventions, proven to be effective and inexpensive, include:

Monitor tobacco use and assess the impact of tobacco prevention and cessation efforts;
Protect everyone from secondhand smoke with laws that require smoke-free workplaces and public places;
Offer help to every tobacco user to quit;
Warn and effectively educate every person about the dangers of tobacco use with strong, pictorial health warnings and hard-hitting, sustained media campaigns to educate the public; and
Enact and enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships and on the use of misleading terms such as “light” and “low-tar;” and
Raise the price of tobacco products by increasing tobacco taxes.
There are 157 countries that have committed to implementing these interventions by signing the health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. According to the WHO, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world today. Unless nations act now, tobacco will kill one billion people worldwide this century.

The new study, entitled "Waking a Sleeping Giant: The Tobacco Industry's Response to the Polonium-210 Issue", was conducted by researchers at two prestigious institutions in the United States, the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.

The study analyzed internal tobacco industry documents and industry testimony and found that tobacco companies attempted, but ultimately choose against, removing PO-210 from their tobacco products. Research on the dangers of PO-210 was also stopped as tobacco companies feared the data would ignite a firestorm of public concern.

The study also found that tobacco companies "continue to minimize its [polonium-210's] importance in smoking and health litigation and remain silent on their Web sites and in their messages to consumers."

The study analyzed internal documents, court testimony and trial depositions from tobacco companies including British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorrilard, Liggett, Brown and Williamson, American Tobacco and others.