Tobacco industry 'predatory rogue out of control'

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The Independent Online
Confidential documents allegedly stolen from tobacco manufacturers reveal the industry as "a predatory rogue raging out of control which has duped the public and politicians for years", according to the American Medical Association.

And, in an unprecedented step, the AMA has dedicated an entire issue of its journal to analysis of more than 1,300 documents which it says shows the extent of the industry's knowledge about the dangers of smoking over 30 years.

The action is the most aggressive step taken by doctors in the bitter battle with the tobacco industry, including British American Tobacco (BAT), the world's second largest manufacturer of cigarettes.

Dr Thomas Huston, director of the AMA's Department of Public Health, said yesterday: "We hope that publishing these documents will persuade people who have supported cigarette companies as just another industry like General Motors or IBM, that it is something quite different."

The documents, some of which have previously been leaked to the New York Times, from Brown & Williamson and its parent company, BAT, confirm that its public stance that cigarettes were safe was at odds with its own research.

Analysis of the documents in the Journal of the American Medical Association show the companies knew that:

t Nicotine was addictive and cigarettes are "nicotine delivery devices". BAT officials looked to develop the positive effects of nicotine as a stress reducer. Sir Charles Ellis, a BAT executive at its London headquarters, described nicotine as a "very remarkable beneficent drug..."

t When evidence linked cigarettes with lung cancer BAT began research into alternative methods of delivering nicotine.

t Despite discovering that passive smoking was harmful, B&W and BAT withheld the information and publicly denied that it was a health risk.

t BAT and B&W lawyers steered company scientists away from potentially incriminating research, and selected evidence from externally-funded research to create confusion about the health effects of tobacco.

t The companies funded research resulting in "irrelevant" findings on cigarette smoking and repeatedly questioned the validity of independent research on the hazards of tobacco.

The Independent on Sunday last year revealed that British tobacco companies hushed up the health hazards of cigarettes, despite their research and concerns of some of their officials.

A spokesman for BAT declined to comment on the American analysis, while Brown & Williamson said the AMA's publication was "little more than a cherry-picking exercise designed to advance its stated mission to eliminate smoking".