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Tobacco Ind. hid early evidence of passive smoke danger


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Tobacco industry hid early evidence of danger from passive smoking

Reuters Health

Posting Date: November 10, 2004

Last Updated: 2004-11-10 14:22:12 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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.


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