The pieces that make up the jigsaw ...


WHEN the law firm Covington and Burling detailed the activities of the consultants programme it had set up on behalf of Philip Morris, it didn’t identify any of the consultants by name. However, some activities in the memo seem to tally with known events. For instance, the report describes how an army of consultants would organise a conference on indoor air pollution in Lisbon, to “show the insignificance of ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] by emphasising the genuine problems of air quality in warm climates”. A scientific conference fitting this description took place the following year. Elsewhere, the document mentions a consultant who published a book called Follies and Fallacies in Medicine, describing the book as “a clever and entertaining way of suggesting that medical `certainties’ are frequently without genuine scientific basis”. The book was published by Prometheus in 1990. One of its two authors was the late Petr Skrabanek, an epidemiologist at Trinity College, Dublin. Other documents show that he also helped to write reports for the tobacco industry. The memo also mentions an unnamed consultant who was “examining the feasibility of using autopsy data in Hungary to attack the reliability of lung cancer diagnoses”. A paper on this topic was published in 1996 in General and Diagnostic Pathology (vol 141, p 169). Two of its authors were Francis Roe, formerly of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, now retired, and Peter Lee, listed on the paper as an independent consultant in statistics and epidemiology based in Sutton, Surrey—both named as advisers to the tobacco industry in other documents. Under the heading “Bird keeping”, two consultants were said to be “guiding research” in the Netherlands and Scotland into the links between lung cancer and keeping pet birds. Studies fitting this description, including some listing Lee among their authors,
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