NCI Tobacco Working Group

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

The Tobacco Working Group or TWG, was a federally funded project launched by the National Cancer Institute, with the purpose of developing a less hazardous cigarette. Most of the cigarette companies were secretly working on experiments which might lead to the creation of a 'Safe', or at least 'Safer Cigarette' ... while earnestly denying there was any health problems with their standard cigarettes. They were all seeking to gain a competitive advantage over the other companies, so they didn't share the results of their research -- but they all tried to lower 'tar' and nicotine levels while still retaining the "full flavour" of the old cigaretes..

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) put together a Tobacco Working Group (TWG) under Dr Gio Batta Gori to conduct experiments which would be shared by all companies, on the understanding that nothing would be made public about the discovered dangers until some conclusion could be reached. The top medical-research executives from each of the US companies was on this panel. Over a few years they explored the effect of over 150 cigarette variables (and their 'fractions') on biological activity, mainly by mouse skin painting. [2]

RELATED ENTRIES
Shubik Committee
Gio Batta Gori

The Tobacco Working Group was a blend of (a) genuine concerned research scientists, (b) some who believed the problem was overblown and that a simple solution could be found by reducing the 'tar' and nicotine levels and thereby producing a 'safe' or 'safer cigarette, and (c) a few scientists employed by the tobacco industry itself who were intent on ensuring that:

  • no absolute statement that cigarettes were harmful were ever to be made by the TWG.
  • experiments supported were strictly controlled to ensure that nothing ever 'proved' cigarettes were cancerous
  • the companies themselves must implement changes voluntarily - no compulsion.

This approach was supported by Dr Gio Batta Gori who was selected by the NCI to run the research program. He was eventually dismissed for getting too close to the companies, and for supporting their efforts to disrupt some independent research.

When questions began to emerge about the value of retaining the TWG and Gori, the President appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Smoking and Health, and then a more substantial scientific committed under the National Cancer Advisory Board. This became named after its chairman Philippe Shubik, as the Shubik Committee.

Eventually the TWG was disbanded, and then Gio Gori was asked to retire. He became a full-time tobacco industry science researcher, but he was tolerated by the industry rather than supported. He established the Health Policy Institute as a front.

TimeLine

1968 Informal meetings of what became the TWG under the chairmanship of Kenneth Endicott.
1969-70 Kenneth M Endicott of the NCI's Lung Cancer Task Force was the Director of the TWG.
1970 Endicott retired from the TWG and Dr Carl G Baker, then TWG Chairman, succeeded Endicott as Director.
later Dr Gio Batta Gori became Chairman of TWG and changed the orientation towards Less Hazardous Cigarette 1973 Feb Dissatisfaction with the TWG led the President to appoint an oversight committee of the National Cancer Advisory Board which met under the chairmanship of Philippe Shubik and came to be called the Shubik Committee.

The Distortions

The group had actually begun meeting informally in 1968 to discuss generally research related to smoking and health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease.

The documents show that the tobacco companies participated in the meetings of the TWG and attempted to influence the group's work. At first, the tobacco industry claimed that cigarettes are not dangerous, but this became an untenable position. When this strategy failed, the industry gained unexpected assistance from Dr. Gio Batta Gori, Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention and Director of the TWG's research program.

Gori promoted and publicized the idea that less hazardous cigarettes could be created, which propped up the industry claim that smoking cessation wasn't an economically viable health message. Gori eventually became an embarrassment for the federal government which was focused on getting smokers to quit. But Gori's efforts were a boon for the tobacco industry and they took advantage of Gori's proposal to promote low tar and extra low tar cigarettes and a range of filters which were supposed to remove any harmful substances from smoke (including Ken't Micronite filter made from asbestos fibre).

On February 8, 1973, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a charter for the TWG, which made it a formal and multi-disciplinary group consisting (now) of researchers from academia, the government, and the tobacco companies. The 1973 Charter specified that the purpose of the group was to "identify the criteria and prescribe methods for the development of a less hazardous cigarette, and other methods to decrease the smoking hazard." [1]

Dr Gio B Gori was eventually relieved from his position as head of the TWG and set up as a scientific lobbyist working for the tobacco industry.

Referernces

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  1. Brown & Williamson 1402.02]. (The Cigarette Papers, pg. 155)