Big Tobacco is completely aware of the carcinogenic and addictive properties of cigarettes and deliberately manipulates their products to make them more addictive.
Biochemist Jeffrey Wigand worked at Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and other health care companies until accepting a position as head of the research department at Tobacco giant Brown & Williamson. Under the lure of designing a safer cigarette, Wigand accepted the cushy $300k a year post. From the get go, B&W’s legal team imposed severe restrictions on Dr. Wigand’s newly-formed team. For instance, they were forbidden from using the words “safer” or “less hazardous” in writing. The company line was that cigarettes were not addictive and not health-threatening.
Inside the industry, it was widely known that cigarette were nothing more than a “delivery device for Nicotine”. The more potent the Nicotine, the quicker the addict could get his fix. They called this “impact boosting“.
Realizing that his dream of developing a safer cigarette would never pan out, Dr. Wigand moved on to trying to reduce the negative effect of chemicals used in the manufacturing of cigarettes. He discovered that B&W still used Coumarin, despite its links with lung Cancer being proven. After pointing out that it would save between 800 to 1000 lives a year and trying to get it removed from the product line, he was once again unsuccessful and eventually fired.
Despite a binding non-disclosure agreement, Dr. Wigand chose to testify in court and to record the now famous 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace exposing to the world the hidden secrets of Big Tobacco.
Wigand not only revealed that, despite repetitive denials of the negative effect of smoking, Big Tobacco CEOs and other executives were fully aware that cigarettes were addictive and caused Cancer. It had been common knowledge within the industry since the 1950s. He also explained how Big Tobacco deliberately manipulates, adjusts, and enhances the effect of Nicotine in order to make it more addictive.
Wigand received numerous death threats and CBS (producers of 60 Minutes) provided armed security for Jeffrey and his family. Brown & Williamson used legal bullying tactics to pressure CBS into not airing the program, but after the story broke in the Wall Street Journal, CBS aired the segment.
The story eventually led to 46 states winning a $368 billion settlement in damages against the tobacco industry.
Whistleblower Protection Hearing: Jeffrey Wigand Testimony
60 Minutes: Jeffrey Wigand – Original 60 minutes interview
60 Minutes interview transcript
Brown & Williamson merged with R.J. Reynolds in 2004 to form Reynolds American Inc, the United States’ 2nd largest tobacco company.