A top tobacco executive said in a sworn statement that tobacco is no more addictive than Gummy Bears candy.
James Morgan, president of Philip Morris Co., also said he wouldn’t get out of the tobacco business even if he were convinced that cigarettes cause cancer, according to depositions obtained by CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
His statements were videotaped by an attorney who is pressing a $5 billion class-action lawsuit in Miami against tobacco companies. The suit, filed by flight attendants who say secondhand smoke gave them lung cancer and other diseases, is scheduled for trial June 2.
Attorney Stanley Rosenblatt, who made tapes of his questions to Morgan available to CBS, also taped depositions last month by the heads of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson and Lorillard.
When Rosenblatt asked Morgan if he believes cigarette smoking is addictive, Morgan replied, “Pharmacologically, my answer is no.”
“If they are behaviorally addictive or habit forming, they are much more like caffeine, or in my case, Gummy Bears,” he said. “I love Gummy Bears … and I want Gummy Bears, and I like Gummy Bears, and I eat Gummy Bears, and I don’t like it when I don’t eat my Gummy Bears, but I’m certainly not addicted to them.”
A Philip Morris spokeswoman complained that “60 Minutes” gave short shrift to Morgan’s discussion of the pharmacological reasons he believes tobacco isn’t addictive.
“If people think he was relating Gummy Bears to smoking they would be misinformed or misdirected because that was not the context of his testimony,” said Ellen Merlo, senior vice president for corporate affairs.
New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco said that he was outraged by Morgan’s comments.
New York is one of several states that have sued Philip Morris and other tobacco companies to recoup billions of dollars spent each year for treating smoking-related illnesses.
The analogy to a candy is particularly galling because of accusations that tobacco companies have targeted youngsters in marketing, Vacco said. “Statements like this border on making the negotiation process a mockery and I will not be part of this process if it degenerates to the point where the public is laughing at this process,” he said.
“60 Minutes” plans to show excerpts of the depositions on Sunday.