Tobacco industry document claims major infiltration of science, including The Lancet & Parliamentary select committee

Thursday 14 May 1998

ASH/ Press releases/


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Press releaseEmbargo 19:00  13 May 1998 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

Tobacco industry document claims major infiltration of science, including The Lancetand a Parliamentary Select Committee

Documents reported in New Scientist today suggest that the world’s largestmulti-national tobacco company, Philip Morris, paid UK scientists to manipulate scientificopinion on passive smoking. The exercise was called ‘Project Whitecoat’ – the scientistswere the ‘whitecoats’. The key document is a 1990 report by London-based law firmCovington and Burling on activities that the ‘project whitecoat’ had undertaken for PhilipMorris in Europe. Claimed activities (and page number in the document) include:

  • involvement as special adviser to a select committee of the House of Common (p.8)
  • infiltration of the Lancet (p. 7)
  • infiltration of the International Agency for Research in Cancer (p.8)
  • establishing a ‘learned society’ – Indoor Air International and its journal. The first three presidents of this society were Philip Morris consultants. (p.5)
  • establishing a commercial consulting group, ARIA (p.5)
  • providing medical advice to Middle Eastern governments.
  • sending European consultants to set up similar programmes in Asia (p.5)
  • researching into factors other than ETS that cause lung cancer – such as keeping pet birds. (p.8)
  • major conference opened by Portuguese Environment Minister (p.2)
  • numerous unattributed publications (p.6) and conferences (p.1)

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said “Philip Morris’s attempt to infiltratescience is a scandal, but it is matched by the willingness of some scientists to act assoldiers of fortune for the tobacco industry.”

“This will make people look more closely for tobacco industry fingerprints onsupposedly independent work. The documents clearly show the industry inventing andorchestrating controversies by buying up scientists and creating influential outlets fortainted science.” said Bates.

ASH was sympathetic about the difficulties faced by institutions such as The Lancet:”No matter how strict you are about conflicts of interest, there is not that much youcan do if scientists conceal who they are paid by. In the end you have to rely on trust,and Philip Morris’s ‘Whitecoat’ project was an organised mass breach oftrust. ” said Bates.

Editors’ note: The documents are available on the ASH web site at <ahref=”http:”” papers=”” pmorris1.html”=””>





Contact Clive Bates, Director (020) 7739 5902
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director (020) 7739 5902
Pauline Doyle, Press Officer (020) 7739 5902 or 0171 249 2363 (hm)

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