During the early 1950s scientists began to publish scientific studies suggesting that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases. One of the most influential of the early studies, published by Drs. Ernst L. Wynder and Evarts A. Graham in 1950 (1), showed that smokers had a greater risk of lung cancer than nonsmokers did. Later, Wynder and Graham showed that mice who had cigarette "tar" painted on their backs were more likely to develop malignant tumors than control mice that were not painted with tobacco tar (2). These results were interpreted as important evidence that smoking could cause cancer in humans, and they were widely reported in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times (May 27, 1950), Reader's Digest (December 1952), and Life (December 21, 1953). The tobacco industry's earliest response to this growing body of scientific evidence was to promote new types of cigarettes, such as cigarettes with filters and "low-tar" cigarettes. The industry implied in its advertisements that these new cigarettes were healthier than the old ones. However, the documents show that the new brands had been created for marketing and public relations purposes, to lull the public into a false sense of security regarding the health effects of smoking.
Part of the industry's response to the evidence linking smoking and disease was the formation of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC), later renamed the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR). The industry claimed that TIRC was an independent organization that would determine the truth about the health effects of smoking by funding independent scientific research. The documents show, however, that TIRC was originally created for public relations purposes, to convince the public that there was a "controversy" as to whether smoking is dangerous. As chapter 8 describes, CTR funded "special projects" whose research results could be used by industry lawyers to defend tobacco companies in court and to influence public opinion and public policy.
The release of two major government reports on the health dangers of smoking—the 1962 report of the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom (3) and the 1964 report of the Surgeon General in the United States (4)—apparently sparked a debate in the industry over how to respond to the growing body of evidence that its products kill. The documents suggest that in the United States B&W and, probably, the other tobacco companies were deeply concerned about the potential for regulation and litigation and reacted to the reports primarily by trying to protect themselves from litigation while maintaining their sales and profits. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, BAT seemed genuinely concerned about the health problems and embarked on an elaborate effort to develop a "safe" cigarette. Chapter 4, however, shows that this effort ultimately failed.