1969 Give an inch, gain a decade

The Senate moves to ban cigarette advertising on TV and place health warnings in other ads. Philip Morris President Joseph Cullman sees the silver lining in the dark cloud over the industry’s head: Voluntarily agreeing to remove tobacco TV advertising would effectively end competition from new companies because, without TV, the introduction of new brands would prove prohibitively expensive. In the subsequent bargain Cullman cuts with Congress, specific references to cancer or other diseases are removed from warning label language, and industry lawyers quietly insert a “pre-emption” section in the law, essentially preventing states from awarding any damages in tobacco liability lawsuits. This section, along with package warning labels, becomes the companies’ key defense against liability lawsuits brought by smokers over the next 20 years.

1970 Dr. Auerbach’s beagles are turned on him

On February 6, 1970, a front-page New York Times article reports a breakthrough that panics tobacco apologists: “12 Dogs Develop Lung Cancer in Group of 86 Taught to Smoke.” The study, by Dr. Oscar Auerbach and Cuyler Hammond, proves that exposure to cigarette smoke produces malignant tumors in large animals. The American Cancer Society, which funded the study, claims the findings “effectively refute” the contention that there is no proven link between cigarettes and cancer. Every TV network news show leads with the story of the smoking beagles. Caught off guard, The Tobacco Institute initially appeals to offended animal lovers and then claims the findings are unrelated to human smokers.

The New England Journal, which carried earlier smoking studies by Auerbach and Hammond, has a policy of accepting only “unpublicized results,” and the beagle study has already been disclosed at a press conference. The Journal’s editor returns the paper, saying the decision to reject it on procedural–not substantive–grounds has been “agonizing.”

Though the paper is later published elsewhere, cigarette companies employ this technical rejection in a broad media campaign to discredit the study and its authors, calling it the “beagles fiasco.”

Kentucky Congressman Tim Lee Carter, a champion of the tobacco industry, claims the Journal “had rejected the [beagles] research papers outright.” The president of The Tobacco Institute declares the study “may be one of the great scientific hoaxes of our time.”

In early 1971, Philip Morris head Joseph Cullman tries to bury the beagles study for good. As a guest on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” he falsely claims that criticism has forced the researchers to back off their central finding that the beagles got lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. Cullman also states, “We do not believe that cigarettes are hazardous; we don’t accept that.” And when asked about another recent study, which found that smoking mothers gave birth to smaller babies, Cullman remarks, “Some women would prefer having smaller babies.”


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.