Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette'

That was one of the slogans used in ads a long time ago, according to this short history of cigarettes as they went from from "a cultural icon of sophistication, glamour and sexual allure" during 1900s to 1960s to "a symbol of death and disease" today. Needless to add, the essay by Howard Markel also goes into Big Tobacco's shady shenanigans, as described in a recent book (The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America) by Allan M. Brandt, a medical historian at Harvard.

In 2004, Dr. Brandt was recruited by the Department of Justice to serve as its star expert witness in the federal racketeering case against Big Tobacco and to counter the gaggle of witnesses recruited by the industry. According to their own testimony, most of the 29 historians testifying on behalf of Big Tobacco did not even consult the industry’s internal research or communications. Instead, these experts focused primarily on a small group of skeptics of the dangers of cigarettes during the 1950s, many of whom had or would eventually have ties to the tobacco industry.

"I was appalled by what the tobacco expert witnesses had written," Dr. Brandt said in a recent interview. "By asking narrow questions and responding to them with narrow research, they provided precisely the cover the industry sought."

Apparently, the judge, Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, agreed. Last August, she concluded that the tobacco industry had engaged in a 40-year conspiracy to defraud smokers about tobacco’s health dangers. Her opinion cited Dr. Brandt’s testimony more than 100 times.