Bearing Witness for Tobacco

Maggi, Laura
March 2000
Journal of Public Health Policy;2000, Vol. 21 Issue 3, p296
Academic Journal
This article is a reprint from the March 27-April 10, 2000 issue of The American Prospect. It deals with expert witnesses used by the tobacco industry in litigations against the industry. In 1994, historian and author Stephen E. Ambrose took a stand in a Louisiana case brought by Gere Covert, a Baton Rogue attorney who decided to sue after the death of his wife, a longtime smoker, from lung cancer. Ambrose hammered home the industry's line: the risks of smoking have been known for decades, if not for centuries, so smokers who get sick made a knowing choice. Ambrose, of course was paid by the tobacco industry. But he is not the only outside witness to testify for tobacco. Others include liberal social scientist Theodore R. Marmor and medical historian Kenneth AM. Blunderer. Supposedly expert testimony is used by the tobacco industry in most tobacco lawsuits to describe what a health menace tobacco was widely considered to be. Scientists and marketing experts directly employed by the tobacco companies draw conclusions as the industry wishes them to. There are also independent conservative academics whose own world view is consistent with the industry's point of view. Members of law and economic schools insist that most risks are by definition freely incurred and often overstated. These scholars are principal allies of the tobacco industry, if one could use such a phrase.


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