July 18, 1996 in Nation/World

Tobacco Memo Urged Secrecy Of Data

Associated Press
 

In a memo that a tobacco company fought to keep private, executives and researchers were told to “restrict the flow of research information” and run such documents by company lawyers to “review and audit them.”

The memo to employees of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. seems to support claims by whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, a former chief researcher for B&W; that the company misled the public about the dangers of nicotine.

The two-page memo was filed Wednesday as part of motion by the state of Florida, one of at least nine states suing cigarette makers to recover money spent treating tobacco-related illnesses.

The memo came after a meeting in New York City in January 1990 to discuss ways to keep scientists from writing papers that could hurt the company, said an attorney for the state, Ron Motley.

The company maintains that the document should not have been made public through the state court filing and a hearing on its release is scheduled for Monday.

The document, titled “The January 17th, 1990 Agenda,” proposes “restricting the current flow of research-related documents.”

Several of its suggestions are quoted in the state’s motion, including:

“Educating scientists in each research centre about document writing/document creation.”

“Regular lawyer review and audits of scientific documents” and arranging a system to ensure that research-related conference minutes “are vetted by the lawyer.”

The legal motion said the document confirms efforts by the tobacco company to ship “deadwood” documents out of the country - and out of the hands of plaintiff’s attorneys.

Brown & Williamson officials in Louisville, Ky., said Wednesday that they had not seen the motion and could not immediately comment.

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