Health

Tobacco Industry Cover Up

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 2:22 PM EDT

Scientists know that secondhand smoke increases risk of heart disease by 30 percent, but cigarette makers are doing their darnedest to make sure we're kept in the dark.

A report in the current issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, says that the tobacco industry has repeatedly tried to suppress evidence of the detrimental effects of cigarette smoke.

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A particularly juicy little nugget from the report: From 1990-1994, the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR), a non-profit funded by the tobacco industry, hired NYU scientist Arthur Penn to study the correlation between secondhand smoke and heart disease. Penn found that when cockerels (male chickens) were exposed to smoke from the equivalent of five cigarettes a day, they developed plaque in their arteries. Needless to say, the tobacco industry was not happy with these results, a scuffle ensued, and CIAR ended Penn's contract. A nice moment:

In a Science news interview about Penn's findings, [R.J. Reynolds "inhalation toxicologist"] Coggins suggested the cockerels developed the plaques because of the stress of being in a smoky environment. Penn refuted this suggestion by saying the cockerels were docile in the cages like "pet rocks."

Some poking around led me to the website for Phillip Morris's vaguely named Center for Research and Technology, a $350 million facility set to open in Richmond, Virginia later this year. According to the site, the center will:

* Nearly double the company's research space
* Employ 500 highly specialized scientists, engineers and support staff (both Philip Morris USA employees and vendors)
* Create more than 450,000 square feet of commercial space downtown

Yikes.

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