Carl C. Seltzer

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.


Carl Coleman Seltzer was a Harvard-based physical anthropologist graduate supported by tobacco industry funds for more than forty years. He was promoted by the industry's PR companies as an "independent Harvard professor from the School of Public Health; a heart specialist, who didn't believe that smoking was a serious risk."

He was also:

- accepted as an independent consultant during numerous Congressional inquiries;
- sent as an 'independent scientist' to genuine scientific health conferences around the world;
- supplied as an honorary statistician to legitimate biomedical research groups to perform their calculations and prepare their reports;
- promoted onto the Scientific Advisory group for the US Surgeon-General's annual review of the status of cigarette/smoking research;
- promoted to the media everywhere as a Harvard Professor, and a cardiologist, and
- sent of media tours around the world to preach the message that there was no evidence linking smoking with heart disease.

In short, he was one of the most effective of the early scientific lobbyists who managed to preserve the cigarette companies' right to kill their customers for a few decades beyond the rational expectation.

Administrators and academics at Harvard University (especially the Harvard School of Public Health and the Peabody Museum) were party to this deception at the highest level. They maintained a veil of secrecy over the university dealings with Seltzer because of their public posture of not accepting tobacco industry funding.

Yet almost all of the money Seltzer earned during these years (more than $2 million) came either indirectly from the tobacco companies and their trade association (by way of lawyers and third-party cut-outs in the university), the Tobacco Institute (TI) or more directly in the form of grants from their fake research organisations the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) and the later Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) and Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR).

This is a split entry
Part 1. This entry
Part 2. Carl C Seltzer (Doc Index)

Background to the deception

Seltzer was born in 1908 and took his PhD in physical anthropology at Harvard in 1933.

His early years were spent in conducting physical measurements of the tribes of native Americans, and collecting artefacts and myths for the Peabody Museum as a staff member. He helped the State Department determine the tribal boundaries of the tribal reservations.

When he began to work for the tobacco industry he was able to exploit:

  • The Harvard University name. Since the Peabody Museum was on the grounds of Harvard, he was able to use Harvard University letterhead, and promote himself as if he were a professorial fellow of the University.
  • His Doctorate in physical anthropology was assumed by the media to be a medical accreditation, since he spoke about smoking and heart disease. He just didn't disabuse the journalists on this matter.
  • He always distributed to journalists copies of previous articles where he was credited as being a Professor from Harvard, and a heart specialist, since he attacked the idea that smoking could cause heart failure -- but avoided questions of lung-cancer. Eventually the reports became fixed on him being a Harvard Cardiologist. The media never checked.

Grant study

During the second world war Seltzer remained at Harvard, but assisted in American army office recruitment by conducting thousands of physical measurements of inductees, thus helping create a major database which included smoking and lifestyle information.

This later became the basis for a major health research program after the war known as the 'Grant study'. It was directed by Seltzer's friend Dr Charles McArthur at Harvard, and initially it studied 250 "normal" Harvard students who had first been measured and tested for personality differences in 1938. They were followed up by questionnaires sent out in 1959, and this resulted in a number of papers promoting the idea that personality was genetically predetermined, and that diseases were linked more to genetic variation than to life-style or environmental factors. [2]

Peabody Museum years

For years after the war Seltzer returned to just being a low-level physical anthropologist graduate who worked as a honorary (self-funded) researcher through Peabody Museum on the Harvard campus. He did work on American Indian tribes, helping the government to determine which Indian groups held tribal rights to various national resources, etc. But through his connections at the university and his work on the original data, he was able to extend the follow-up from the Grant study to encompass 922 ex-students.

Smoking and masculinity index

Seltzer's first publication on this subject looked at an index of body measurements which he called "the masculinity index" and related this to smokers and non-smokers. He distinguished physical features which were different between males and females. [3] He found that:

The data show that there is a significant association between the strength of the masculine component and the smoking habits of the subjects.

More specifically, weakness' of the masculine component is significantly more frequent in smokers than in nonsmokers. [and] the degree of weakness of the masculine component from the nonsmokers to the heavier smokers is consistent and progressive.

In other words, the more feminine males smoked, and smoked more heavily the more feminine they were in body build.

This study was noticed by Robert Hockett, the deputy director of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) who realised that, although it reported that healthier masculine males smoked less (which was contrary to all the advertising images), the study could be used to support industry claims that there was not necessarily a causal-connection between smoking and health. Both could be under the influence of a third factor, genetics.

Hockett contacted Seltzer and had a long discussion about future funding which resulted in Seltzer receiving a few thousand dollars to write a major article for the Atlantic Monthly magazine ... with some modifications to the conclusions (as noted by MD magazine). [4]

"Why People Smoke". [5] in the Atlantic Monthly reported the study findings in a different way:

Smokers are consistently larger than the nonsmokers. They are taller, heavier, broader in the shoulders and hips, bigger in the size of chest, leg and hand."

They were also more outgoing, risk-taking, life-fullfilling, etc. Essentially he was now maintaining a position which was the exact opposite of the Science report. In this article he says it is genetic differences (the masculinity component') which determine those who are attracted to smoking -- and these features characteristically matched the promotions of the cigarette companies. Smokers are now more like the cowboys in the 'Marlboro Man' ads, while non-smokers are wimps and nerds.

Correlation vs causation

This came to be known as the constitutional hypothesis which was used by the cigarette companies to explain to the public and politicians why no restrictions on cigarettes were needed. While a statistical link might be show cigarettes are linked to cancer or heart disease, (they said) statistical correlation did not necessarily mean that cigarettes caused the disease. Correlation is not causation became the industry's catch-phrase,

And since both a propensity to smoke and the likelihood of disease were the consequence of genetic predetermination, there was no point in reducing tobacco consumption since it would provide no beneficial effects ... either to the individual or for the community as a whole.

It was a very convincing argument with those politicians who were trying to find a way to protect their state's tobacco farming economy, and it was especially attractive if they needed the generous campaign funds and junkets provided by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco industry support

Clarence Cook Little, the famous cancer researcher who ran the Tobacco Industry Research Council in a way that suited the industry, reported that he had confidence in Seltzer, and that he should be supported and introduced to other dodgy scientists who worked for the industry. [6] Over time he became a central member of the scientific core family of scientists supporting the tobacco industry, while still protesting his independence.

By mid 1962 Seltzer was firmly on the tobacco industry gravy train. [7] He had been linked up with a major research project conducted at Johns Hopkins university by Carolyn Thomas (similar to the Harvard student study). He was also being used to gather intelligence on the biases and research of other scientists for the tobacco industry [8] both for possible recruitment, and to prepare counter-measures.

The tobacco industry had also pulled some strings and arranged for him to be recruited to the advisory board of the Surgeon General's Committee (SRC) preparing the annual report on Smoking and Health. [9] However he had little influence here.

Harvard School of Public Health years

While Seltzer's position at the Peabody Museum meant that he was able to use Harvard University letterhead, it still didn't carry the prestige of being a member of Harvard University's academic staff itself. So in 1962, the industry arranged for Seltzer to meet Professor Frederick J. Stare, a shill for the food and chemical industry, and the Harvard Professor who ran the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) as a private fiefdom [10]

Tobacco activities and covert support

At this time he was recruited by the tobacco industry virtually on a full-time basis, and he eventually transferred to work in Stare's Department of Nutrition (from 1963 until 1977). This gave him more cover and some manufactured scientific status. [11]. It also gave Stare a cut of the proceeds. [12]

Stare was to protect him for many years. And when serious questions arose in the main university, he arranged for payments to be made as grants directly into the Department coffers by-passing the normal administrative rules. He also organised a lecturing position for Seltzer at Tufts University (through a close associate) which allowed Seltzer to use the title of "Professor". Seltzer then offered voluntary statistical services to the American Heart Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and to other genuine research institutes by using his Harvard School of Public Health and Tufts University credentials -- this, of course, raised his value to his tobacco industry funders.

The tobacco industry utilised this manufactured status -- an independent "Professor" from the "Harvard School of Public Health" who was an expert on cardiac (heart) diseases and a consultant to the American Heart Foundation. The paid him to appear as their witness in Congressional hearings.

Time Magazine on July 7 1970 reported that Carl Seltzer, "from the Harvard School of Public Health, a consultant to the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee in 1964", said this about heart disease in 1969:

"It will be regrettable, if the impact of the prestige of the U. S. Public Health Service led scientists and the public to believe in and accept as firmly established facts which, on the basis of current knowledge, are speculative and lacking in scientific validity.

The situation demands not special pleading but scientific truth, namely, what is reasonably established. And, certainly, it has not been reasonably established that cigarette smoking causes coronary heart disease."

The tobacco industry's PR companies also promoted Seltzer's expertise to gullible media organisations in other countries, and the industry sent him around the world where he was promoted by the local industries as an expert on smoking and heart-disease [13]. When not on tour, they paid for him to provide statistical services to many legitimate health research groups in the USA looking into the relationship between smoking and health. [[14]] His Harvard credentials were highly attractive to small research groups eagre to boost the prestige of their work.

Over a number of decades, more than $2 million in tobacco money passed through secret accounts and were channeled to Seltzer via Stare. The companies paid on a pro-rata basis according to their sales. The money then went into a secret "Special Account #4" held by the Kansas City law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Payments were then made as grants to the Department of Nutrition, where Stare took his cut, and passed the rest to Seltzer.

Yet both Seltzer and Stare publicly denied any links with the tobacco industry [15] and when challenged, they claimed that they never took a penny from the tobacco industry. [16] Since they were paid by lawyers, that was theoretically correct.

As he approached retirement Seltzer began to specialise in overseas trips which were funded and organised by the tobacco industry. They paid a public relations company to shop him around various countries, setting up meetings, interviews and press conferences with print, radio and television program personel. [17] With his wife Ruth he visited Australia for Philip Morris, then went on to New Zealand. [18] Later he toured Europe. He struck up a close relationship in the UK with another scientific-tobacco lobbyist/academic, Philip Burch, and they formed a 'mutual admiration society' so that whenever one came under criticism or attack, the other would write letters in his defense; dozens of letters-to-the-editor resulted from this peer-review exchange arrangement.

Seltzer obviously enjoyed travel, and he was available for any conference anywhere if the problems of smoking were to be discussed -- both legitimate scientific conferences, and the many fake conferences run secretly by the tobacco industry. Where-ever he travelled, he sprouted the message -- "there is no causal connection between smoking and disease. Smoking is not linked to coronary heart disease (CHD)". He tended to avoid questions of any links to lung-cancer, claiming that cancer was not his area of expertise. Later his message was supplemented by the claim that his research showed that giving up smoking was a waste of time ... it had no effect whatsoever on the health of the ex-smokers.

When the US government refused further funding for the famous long-term Framington Heart Study which had proved a causal link between smoking and CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) the tobacco industry secretly put in some supplementary funding. In return, Seltzer found himself on the scientific staff of the study. He was now in a position to review and recalculate twenty years of Framingham's health data on CHD which had previously showed links with smoking. As with the a similar Kaiser Permanente study, Seltzer discovered through his re-evaluation of the data, that the original claims about smoking and CHD were wrong. [19] He also promoted the idea that lung cancer, CHD and smoking propensity were all linked with genetically determined Type A personalities.

Many years later, after being forced to retire from the HSPH under the University rules, he returned to work for the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) once again through the Peabody Museum. [20] This time he was paid through grants made to a Museum researcher -- passed on to his 'assistant' (Seltzer). Clearly he was too valuable for the industry to lose. [21] [22]

He was one of the most successful corrupt scientists/academics the tobacco ever owned.

Court-declared list of scientists

Note: this is just a partial list of the scientists, academics and 'consultants' who were being paid via Special Project accounts. It deals only with the scientists known to the courts at the time it was compiled. Many other academics and professionals were paid via these accounts as revealed at later dates.  

The Council of Tobacco Research (CTR) was a tobacco front group designed to promote the idea that science had not proven cigarettes were bad for your health. Those listed below were scientists funded by tobacco to confuse the scientific issues.
Grants made via the CTR's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) may be legitimate (or not), but those made through the secret Special Account #4 were effectively bribes.
UNDATED: But possibly 1975 — INDIVIDUALS OBTAINING SECRET GRANTS THROUGH CTR Special Account #4
Domingo M Aviado Lauren V Ackerman George Albee James Ballenger
Alvan L Barach Walter L Barker Broda O Barnes SP#41
W-BRF, Colorado State Uni.
Walter Becker
Peter Berger Rodger L Bick Theodore H Blau Richard Bing
Evelyn J Bowers Thomas H Brem Irvin Blose Walter M Booker
Oliver Brooke Richard Brotman Lyman A Brewer SP#47
School of Medicine, USC, LA
Barbara B Brown SP#50
PANA Res.Found., Sepulveda CA
K Alexander Brownlee Katherine Bryant Victor B Buhler Thomas H Burford
J Harold Burn Marie Burnett Maurice Campbell Duane Carr
Rune Cederlof Domenic V Cicchetti Martin J Cline W Clark Cooper
Anthony M Cosentino Daniel Cox Gertrude M Cox
Geza De Takato Bertram D Dimmens Charles Dunlap Henry W Elliott
J Earle Estes Frederick J Evans William Evans Hans J Eysenck SP#60/65
Uni of London, UK.
Jack M Farris Sherwin J Feinhandler Alvan R Feinstein SP#2
Yale Uni, New Haven, Conn
Herman Feldman
Edward Fickes Theodor N Finley Melvin W First Edwin R Fisher
Russel S Fisher Merritt W Foster Richard Freedman Herbert Freudenberger
Arthur Furst Nicholas Gerber Menard M Gertler Jean D Gibbons
Carl Glasser Donald Goodwin Bernard G Greenberg Alan Griffen
Finn Gyntelberg William Heavlin Norman W Heimstra Joseph Herkson
Richard J. Hickey SP#56
Wharton School, U of Penn.
Carlos Hilado Harold C Hodge Charles H Hine
Gary L Huber Wilhelm C Hueper Darrell Huff Duncan Hutcheon
Joseph J Janis Roger A Jenkins Marvin Kastenbaum Marti Kirschbaum
Leonard A Katz SP#3
Michigan State Uni, East Lansing
Lawrence L Kuper Mariano La Via Hiram T Langston SP#4
VA Hospital, Hines IL
William G Leaman Michael Lebowitz Samuel B Lehrer William Lerner
Edward Raynar Levine Gerald J Lieberman Stephen C Littlechild Eleanor Macdonald
Nathan Mantel Ross McFarland Thomas F Mancuso SP#67
Occ.Health, Uni of Pittsburgh
Milton Meckler
Nancy Mello Jack Mendelson Irvin Miller Marc Micozzi
Kenneth M Moser Albert H Niden Judith O'Fallon John O'Lane
William B Ober Joseph H Ogura Ronald Okun Ingram Olkin
Thomas L Petty Leslie Preger Walter J. Priest Richard Proctor
Terrence P Pshler Herbert L. Ratcliffe Attilio Renzetti L.G.S. Rao
Raymond H Rigdon Jay Roberts Milton B Rosenblatt John Rosencrans
Walter Rosenkrantz Ray H Rosenman Linda Russek Henry Russek
Ragnar Rylander George L Saiger D.E. Sailagyi I Richard Savage
Richard S Schilling Stanley S Schor Gerhard N Schrauzer Charles Schultz
John Schwab Carl C Seltzer Paul Shalmy Robert Shilling
Henry Shotwell Allen Silberberg N. Skolnik James F Smith SP#43
Uni of Tennessee, Memphis
Louis A. Soloff Sheldon C Sommers (CTR) JB Spalding Charles Spielberg
Charles Spielberger Lawrence Spielvogel Russell Stedman Arthur Stein
Elia Sterling Theodor Sterling SP#51/58/61/62
Washington U, St Louis
Thomas Szasz Paul Toannidis
Chris P Tsokos Helmut Valentin Richard Wagner Norman Wall
Roger Wilson Jack Wiseman George Wright John P Wyatt
Jacob Yerushalmy SP#59
SPH UC Berkely+ Stats, Jerusalem
Irving Zeidman
ORGANISATIONS OBTAINING SECRET GRANTS THROUGH CTR Special Account #4
Aleph Foundation Arthur D. Little Aspen Conference Atmospheric Health Sciences
(Domingo M Avido)
ACVA Atlantic
(Gray Robertson)
Able-Lands Battelle Columbus Laboratories Battelle Memorial Institute
Billings & Gussman BioResearch Laboratories
(L.G.S. Rao)
Brigham Young University Colucci & Associates
Cohen Coleghety Foundation Code Consultants Inc. Carney Enterprises Computerland
Engineered Energy Management Environmental Policy Institute Eysenck Institute of Psychiatry
(Hans J Eysenck)
Fudenberg Harvard Medical School Hine Inc.
(Charles H Hine)
Information Intersciences
International Consultancy International Technology Corporation International Information Institute J.B. Spalding Statistical Service
J.F. Smith Research Account Jacob, Medinger & Finnegan Kravetz Levine & Spotnitz Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Michigan State University Meckler Engineering Group
(Milton Meckler)
Peat, Marwick Main & Co. R.W. Andersohn & Assoc.
Pitney, Hardin & Kipp Public Smoking Research Group Response Analysis Project
(Alfred Vogel/Reuben Cohen)
Response Analysis Corporation
(Alfred Vogel/Reuben Cohen)
Schirmer Engineering Corp. St. George Hospital & Medical School Stanford Research Institution Project Found. for Res. in Bronchial Asthma and Related Diseases
The Futures Group University of South Florida Wayne State University Weinberg Consulting Group
(Myron Weinberg)
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation
DOUBLE-HIDDEN SPECIAL GRANTS paid through the companies/itself
CTR (paid itself) Hearings-Kennedy-Hart Bill Industry Research Liaison Committee Philip Morris
Thomas S Osdene
RJ Reynolds
Murray Senkus
Sources: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-dcd-1_99-cv-02496/pdf/USCOURTS=dcd-1_99-cv-02496-4.pdf
See also [23] and this 1972-81 list with the total amounts paid: [24] This is not an exhaustive list.<br The CTR also has a special site with an index under the Minnesota Agreement. (not very useful) [25]

These are CTR Special Project grantees now known not to have been included in the above list: [26]

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