TOBACCO WARS is a three-part miniseries narrated by Walter Cronkite exploring the history of the cigarette and a shocking look at the tobacco industry. The series consists of three one-hour episodes and premiered on October 21, 1999.
TOBACCO WARS reveals what tobacco companies really knew about the link between smoking and disease and explains how society became seduced by such a dangerous product.
The first episode, “Lighting Up,” tells the story of the modern cigarette.
The second episode, “Smokescreen,” describes how tobacco companies fought opposition to their products. The final episode, “Smoked Out,” is an account of the Big Tobacco courtroom battles of the 1980s and 90s.
I have selected two segments (both from Episode Two) to write about below in an effort to encourage you to watch this miniseries in its entirety. It is vastly entertaining and educational, as well as a bit infuriating.
Mouse House In the mid 1960’s, RJ Reynolds began secretly carrying out animal research to invalidate the evidence suggesting cigarettes cause cancer. Reynolds built a laboratory (known as the Mouse House) equipped with large machines that had been designed and built to expose animals (mice and rabbits) to cigarette smoke. By 1970 the research was beginning to link smoking and emphysema. Corporate executives and lawyers at RJ Reynolds started to worry about the direction the research was taking so they directed researches to turn in all for their laboratory notebooks for review. Laboratory researchers were later told that the notebooks had been accidentally destroyed. Shortly after, management told researches at the Mouse House that the Biological Research Division at the Center for Tobacco Research was being terminated citing a change in the focus of research. In 1970, the Mouse House was closed, the building leveled and the animals, presumably, destroyed.
The Palladuim Cigarette A later project by cigarette manufacturer, Liggett, was titled Project XA. Researcher for Project XA painted tar on the backs of mice to looked at catalysts they could add to tobacco to modify the combustion process and perhaps reduce the tumor production. It was eventually discovered that Palladium (a rare and expensive metal), when mixed with tobacco, dramatically reduced the number of cancers on mice. The discovery even started Nobel Prize talk. But, if the Palladium Cigarette became public, it would effectively concede that all of the company’s other brands of cigarettes would be considered unsafe. Despite conflicted opinions, the company proceeded with manufacturing in preparation for the product launch. The palladium cigarette was expected to be branded “Epic” and marketed as a safer cigarette in the mid 1970’s. But, the debate finally ended in 1977 when the company decided against bringing the palladium cigarette to market.
All three episodes can be watched for free on YouTube.
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