Former Philip Morris Employee Testifies in DOJ Case That He Researched Safer Cigarettes
Former Philip Morris chemist William Farone on Wednesday testified in the trial of a Department of Justice lawsuit filed against several large U.S. tobacco companies over alleged violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act that the industry failed to create safer cigarettes to avoid admissions that smoking is unhealthy, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Farone's testimony is intended to support DOJ claims that consumers were defrauded by the tobacco industry, which allegedly denied smoking was harmful and addictive while making cigarettes designed to "keep smokers hooked," the Bloomberg/Inquirer reports (Van Voris, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/7).
The DOJ lawsuit alleges that Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco and the Liggett Group misled consumers about the health risks of smoking and directed multibillion-dollar promotional campaigns at children. DOJ made the allegations as part of a larger federal lawsuit first filed by the Clinton administration in 1999 that accuses the tobacco industry of conspiracy to mislead consumers about the dangers of smoking. The lawsuit seeks $280 billion in past profits, which represents revenues from sales to smokers younger than age 21 between 1971 and 2000, as well as interest. In addition, the lawsuit seeks $9 billion to pay for smoking-cessation programs and research into safer cigarettes. The trial, presided by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, began last month and likely will last at least six months, with 100 witnesses expected to testify in person and 200 others to testify through depositions or testimony in other trials (California Healthline, 9/28).
Farone, who worked as director of applied research at Philip Morris from 1976 to 1984, testified that about 80% of his time with the company was spent researching ways to reduce the health risks of smoking. According to Farone, it is possible to create a cigarette with almost no tar or nicotine and to remove certain chemicals known to cause cancer. He added that the industry should have done more to eliminate carcinogens. "We know enough about toxins in cigarettes to reduce at least some of them," he said (Bloomberg/Inquirer, 10/7).
Farone said researching safer cigarettes was for "defensive reasons," adding, "By that I mean that Philip Morris was preparing for a time when they were forced by the government or by competitors in the marketplace to make meaningful changes to their products." Although all cigarettes are dangerous, Farone said they could have been made "safer to a very large extent." He said changes were not made because of a decades-old "gentleman's agreement" between tobacco companies to not compete over the least-hazardous cigarette, according to Farone (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/7). Philip Morris attorney Dan Webb attempted to get Farone to "admit bias against the company, which fired him in 1984," the Bloomberg/Inquirer reports (Bloomberg/Inquirer, 10/7).