"But if they were lying and if people actually believed their lies," Proctor said, "then the industry can be held liable because they were manufacturing a defective and fraudulent product."
Proctor has used poll results stretching back to the 1940s to show that in fact some people were ignorant of the risks. "Millions of people in the '60s, '70s and '80s didn't know that tobacco caused lung cancer or heart disease," Proctor said. "An increasing number knew, but not everyone knew. And not everyone knew because the industry was manufacturing doubt, fomenting ignorance. Industry executives created a climate of untruth that people bought into and died from."
Proctor also has delved into the phone logs and correspondence records of tobacco companies to look at what consumers were thinking. "Even in the 1970s and '80s, lots of people are writing letters to the industry saying, 'The government is brainwashing me into thinking tobacco is bad, whereas I have a grandmother who lived to be 82 and she smokes, and I've smoked for years and I'm still healthy."'
In an age when nearly everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, it might not seem important to study the ways the tobacco companies sowed doubt. But Big Tobacco's methods have since been exported to other industries. At the same symposium, University of California-San Diego history and science studies Professor Naomi Oreskes will discuss a similar topic in a talk titled "Confounding Science: The Tobacco Road to Global Warming," and journalist Paul Thacker will give a talk titled "Thank You for Polluting: How Campaigns to Create Scientific Confusion Kill Product Regulation."
How can tactics like these undermine the work of so many scientists? Proctor said: "There's a saying in the PR business that for every PhD there's an equal and opposite PhD. And if
Contact: Dawn Levy