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Tobacco Wars: TLC & BBC News present the definitive story of ‘big tobacco,’ told by insiders from the cigarette industry, medicine, marketing and politics


The cigarette is one of the most successful consumer products in the world. It is also one of the world’s biggest killers. For almost a century, big business has reaped huge profits from the tobacco leaf. But today, these profits are increasingly threatened. As the United States continues to see record settlements and increased threats of litigation, TLC and BBC News have teamed up to present the groundbreaking three-part mini-series, TOBACCO WARS.

Narrated by venerable newsman Walter Cronkite and featuring explosive interviews with the major players from all sides of the issue, TOBACCO WARS makes its North American premiere Thursday, October 21, from 9-11 PM (ET/PT) and Friday, October 22, from 9-10 PM (ET/PT).

TOBACCO WARS is a comprehensive history of the cigarette, providing an in-depth, balanced, and often shocking look at the tobacco industry. The series’ three one-hour episodes are organized chronologically, from the advent of the cigarette through its ascension to one of the most profitable consumer products the world has ever seen. Via first person accounts and insider documentation, TOBACCO WARS vividly portrays what the companies really knew about the link between smoking and disease, explains how mankind became seduced by such a dangerous product, provides a status report on Big Tobacco today, and looks towards the future of this most controversial of industries.

In candid and sometimes emotional interviews, TOBACCO WARS hears from the major players from all sides of the conflict, including former and current top tobacco executives; scientists and researchers who believe their research was subverted; public health leaders; politicians and lobbyists; marketing, advertising and public relations gurus who masterminded the rise of the cigarette; industry whistleblowers; cancer victims who have waged war against the industry; and lawyers for both sides.

Corporate leader Bennett LeBow, head of Liggett & Myers, whose admission that cigarettes are addictive and cause lung cancer shattered Big Tobacco’s aura of invincibility, tells the inside story of why he decided to turn on his own industry. Steve Goldstone, chairman of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Nick Brookes, chairman of Brown & Williamson, talk revealingly about heading companies perceived as corporate pariahs. Ernest Pepples, vice-president of Brown & Williamson and a senior tobacco executive for twenty-five years, speaks frankly about events throughout his industry’s history. And Charles Blixt, corporate counsel for RJ Reynolds, gives an insider’s account of being on the receiving end of the biggest litigation cases in history.

Also appearing in TOBACCO WARS (please see kit for complete listing): C. Everett Koop, former United States Surgeon General; Jeffrey Wigand, former vice president of research at Brown & Williamson, turned whistleblower; Former Health, Welfare and Education Secretary Joseph Califano, who talks about taking on tobacco in the Carter administration; Dr. James Mold, former assistant director of research for Liggett, who spearheaded research on the “safer cigarette;” Michael Pertshuk, ex-chairmain of the Federal Trade Commission; Former Lucky Strike and Chesterfield girl Janet Sackman, a current victim of throat and lung cancer; Rep. Henry Waxman, former Chairman, House Subcommittee Health & Environment; and Mike Moore, the attorney general of Mississippi, who sued tobacco companies and won.

Using period footage, archival stills and extensive advertising art, TOBACCO WARS’ first episode, “Lighting Up,” tells the story of the modern cigarette. The program shows how American cigarette baron Buck Duke carved up the world’s cigarette markets with the British, establishing the basis for today’s tobacco empires. The program also documents how cigarette use exploded, as the cash-rich tobacco industry helped first soldiers, then civilian men and women, acquire the habit. In the 1950s and 60s, however, information about smoking’s dangers began to unfold, and the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on smoking officially pronounced the link between smoking and lung cancer. Lighting Up premieres Thursday, October 21, from 9-10 PM (ET/PT).

In “Smokescreen,” the second episode of TOBACCO WARS, insiders describe how, as markets and profits expanded in the 1960s and 70s, tobacco companies aggressively fought opposition to their products — whether political, legal or scientific. For years, scientists had been revealing the deadly effects of cigarettes, yet the tobacco industry ignored, undermined or suppressed their results. And regulators explain how the companies “gave an inch to gain ten years” by conceding to end televised commercials when tobacco advertising came under fire from Congress in the 1960s. Smokescreen premieres Thursday, October 21, from 10-11 PM (ET/PT).

The series culminates with “Smoked Out,” an account of the pitched courtroom battles of the 1980s and 90s — when Big Tobacco finally negotiated with anti-smoking forces under pressure of litigation, and the prospect of increased regulation. The episode also discusses marketing and advertising campaigns targeted at teenagers who, according to anti-tobacco campaigners, need to be recruited each year in order to replace the same number who die from tobacco-related diseases. Smoked Out ends with a look toward tobacco’s future, as huge new markets around the world continue to expand. Smoked Out premieres Friday, October 22, from 9-10 PM (ET/PT).

TOBACCO WARS is a co-production of TLC and BBC News. For the BBC, series producer is Peter Molloy and producer Mark Hedgecoe. For TLC, executive producer is Mary Ellen Iwata.

TLC reaches 69.8 million homes in the United States and 6.2 million homes in Canada and is a service of Discovery Networks, a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc., which also operates and manages Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery People, Discovery Kids Channel, Discovery Science Channel, Discovery Home & Leisure Channel, Discovery Civilization Channel, Discovery Wings Channel, and Discovery en Español. The unit also markets and distributes BBC America.



— Narrated by Walter Cronkite, three-part mini-series makes its North American premiere October 21-22, 1999 —

“It has been a shameful track record. I think it’s been one of deception, cover-up, misleading, intentionally misleading the public. And all in the name of profit.”
— Joseph Bumgarner
Former biochemist, RJ Reynolds Tobacco

“There’s no question what the objective of the other side of this debate is … trying to do. Their objective is to put us out of business.”
— Charles Blixt
Vice President and General Counsel,
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.

“These are adults. They’ve made a choice and they want to smoke — increasingly, actually. You know, you see people, they just want to smoke.”
— Bob Bexon
Marketing Director, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

On tobacco and health:


“By the year 2025, 500 million people will die of smoking. Now, that’s a Vietnam War every day for 27 years. That’s the Titanic sinking every 27 minutes for 27 years.”
— C. Everett Koop
Former United States Surgeon General

“It’s a pleasure to come out and say — not a pleasure but refreshing — to come out and say, ‘Yes, (smoking) does cause all these problems. Yes, it is addictive, 100 percent.'”
— Bennett LeBow
Chair, Liggett Tobacco

“If there is any answer to be found, the tobacco industry wants to find it. It wants to close the gaps in information on the smoking and health controversy.”
— Ernest Pepples
Vice President, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

“Tobacco industry reports on their (health) research are magnificent works of fiction … When we put money in for research we put the research in straightjackets so that the people were limited how far they looked — and if they came beyond a certain point which would reflect badly on the tobacco industry, it came to an end.”
— Tony Van den Bergh
Former Tobacco executive, Godfrey Phillips Tobacco Company (Britain)

“They perverted science, they perverted medicine, they covered up any evidence which worked against them.”
— Prof. John Banzhaf
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health

“Without question, a large part of the reason that President Carter asked me to leave the Cabinet was because of the tobacco campaign, and I think even he would admit that today.”
–Joseph Califano
Former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary and staunch supporter of anti-tobacco regulation

Upon the apparent development of a “safer cigarette”:


“As the prospects of this project grew, everyone thought that (researcher) Jim Mold… would end up on the cover of Time magazine and be nominated (for) a Nobel Prize.”
— Lawrence Meyer
Former Legal Advisor, Liggett & Myers Tobacco

“Well, the attitude initially was a state of euphoria which rapidly turned into a state of schizophrenia.”
— John Bowen Ross
Former Lawyer, Liggett & Myers Tobacco

“When the lawyers got involved, it was a matter of them versus us, it was a conflict. They didn’t want us to proceed.”
— Dr. James Mold
Former Assistant Director Research, Liggett & Myers Tobacco

On passive (or secondhand) smoking:


“When you smoke a cigarette or breathe in secondhand smoke you’re putting cadmium in the air … a whole variety of toxic chemicals which, if they were coming out of a smokestack in an industry, would be very very heavily regulated.”
— Professor Stan Glantz
University of California San Francisco

“Public health authorities increasingly are marginalizing themselves by their more and more aggressive and excessive claims about smoking. Basically, they have now decided that the end justifies the means and they engage in junk science to try to make smoking even more less socially acceptable than it already is.”
— Nick Brookes
CEO, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

“There are just a number of documents within the company and the industry that clearly indicate that secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than mainstream smoke — and the documents date back into the 70s.”
— Jeffrey Wigand
Former Vice President of Research & Development, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

“Anyone who looks at the science will see that the vast majority of studies on the issue have demonstrated that with the possible exception of young children, there is no statistically significant risk associated with environmental tobacco smoke. The whole issue of smoke in the atmosphere can be solved really as a matter of courtesy and good ventilation. It’s not a scientific issue.”
— Nick Brookes
CEO, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

On the public’s love affair with tobacco, and tobacco marketing:


“There are more smokers in the U.S. today than voted for President Clinton in either of the last two elections. So, I mean, this is hardly a minority activity.”
— Nick Brookes
CEO, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

“You ask me what we need to win this war. I answer tobacco as much as bullets.”
— General John Pershing
Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, World War I

“If you’re smoking a cigarette the world is at peace. Everybody seemed to take smoking as a sort of natural pleasure and the industry as a result prospered and rightly so.”
— Andrew Reid
Former Chairman, Imperial Tobacco

“People are terribly brand loyal. They almost never change. The aim of advertising is to lull people’s fears. Deceptive? Of course it’s deceptive. What are we going to say — ‘Buy our product, it’ll kill you’?”
— Fritz Gahagan
Former Market Research Executive for the industry

“One of the executives from RJ Reynolds came over and said ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, “Well I’m smoking.’ And then he said ‘Are you still smoking that stuff?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, how come you guys from RJ Reynolds don’t smoke?’ And he turned to me and said ‘We don’t smoke the shit, we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.'”
— David Goerlitz
“The Winston Man,” 1981-88

“There’s no question in my mind that tobacco companies oughtn’t be following the consumption habits of minors in planning their strategies for the future. Completely inappropriate.”
— Steve Goldstone
Chairman, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

On tobacco litigation and regulation :


Warning labels on cigarette packs:


“For a long time there was no warning label on a package of cigarettes, and it looked like the industry was fighting that. Actually, they weren’t. They wanted a label on there and once the label was on there, they wanted to buy time … in so doing, they could transfer the accountability … for any adverse health effects from the industry to the consumer.”
— Dr. Gary Huber
Former Research Scientist funded by the tobacco industry

“(Labels) made it very difficult for any plaintiff lawyers to claim that a smoker was inadequately warned or didn’t know the risks of smoking because, as a matter of law, the Congress had found that they were adequately warned.”
— Charles Blixt
Vice President and General Counsel, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The 1970 television advertising ban:


“It was widely stated as an accusation that the cigarette companies were using the broadcast media because it was effective to reach children. And the best way to answer that was just to get off television.”
— Ernest Pepples
Vice President, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

“I think you could characterize it as a strategy of giving an inch to gain a decade.”
— Michael Pertschuk
Former Chairman, Federal Trade Commission responding to the tobacco companies’ willingness to stop advertising on TV

On the 1994 hearings before the .U.S. House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment:


“It was a watershed event and having crossed that point, we’re never going to go back. The tobacco industry is not going to be able to put all this back in a bottle and hide it as they were so successfully able to do for decades.”
— Rep. Henry Waxman
Former Chairman, House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment

“It was a perfect example of a show trial, something you don’t expect to see in a free democracy. It was akin to the McCarthy hearings of the 50s.”
— Charles Blixt
Vice President and General Counsel, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.


— Narrated by Walter Cronkite, three-part mini-series makes its North American premiere October 21-22, 1999 —

(In Order of Appearance)


Matthew Myers
Vice President & General Counsel, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

Mike Moore
Attorney General, State of Mississippi

Dr. Charles Le Maistre
Committee Member, Surgeon General’s Report 1964

C. Everett Koop
Fmr. United States Surgeon General

Bob Bexon
Marketing Director, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

Nick Brookes
Chairman, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

Charles Blixt
Vice President and General Counsel, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Rusty Thompson
Tobacco Farmer, Kentucky

Dr. William Farone
Fmr. Director of Applied Research, Philip Morris Tobacco

Arthur Halestrap
Royal Engineers 1918, WWI

Dame Josephine Barnes
Fmr. President, British Medical Association

Pat Weaver
Fmr. Advertising Manager, American Tobacco

Dr. Michael De Bakey
Heart Surgeon, now in his 90s, who warned of dangers of smoking before World War II

Sir Duncan Oppenheim
Fmr. Chairman, British American Tobacco

Sir Richard Doll
Conducted pioneering work linking smoking and lung cancer

Tony Van den Bergh
Fmr. Tobacco Executive, Godfrey Phillips Tobacco Company

Andrew Reid
Fmr. Chairman, Imperial Tobacco

Janet Sackman
Fmr. Lucky Strike girl, now suffering from throat and lung cancer

Ernest Pepples
Vice President, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

Dr. Gary Huber
Fmr. Research Scientist funded by the tobacco industry

Fritz Gahagan
Fmr. Market Research Executive for the tobacco industry

Alan Waldie
Advertising Art Director

Ian Adams
Fmr. Public Relations Advisor, Tobacco Research Council

Joseph Bumgarner
Fmr. Biochemist, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

Dr. Francis Roe
Fmr. Scientist, Tobacco Research Council

Professor John Banzhaf
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health

Michael Pertschuk
Fmr. Chairman, Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Edward Merlis
Fmr. Lawyer, Clearinghouse on Smoking and Health

Dr. Vincent Lisanti
Fmr. Associate Research Director, Council for Tobacco Research

Dr. Freddy Homburger
Pathologist whose research showed how hamsters developed cancer of the larynx when exposed to cigarette smoke

Lawrence Meyer
Fmr. Legal Advisor, Liggett and Myers

Dr. James Mold
Fmr. Assistant Director Research, Liggett and Myers

John Bowen Ross
Fmr. Lawyer, Liggett and Myers

David Abbott
Advertising Executive

Joseph Califano
Fmr. Health, Education and Welfare Secretary

Peter Bourne
Fmr. Health Advisor, White House

William Dwyer
Tobacco Institute

David Goerlitz
“The Winston Man” 1981-1988, RJ Reynolds Tobacco

Steve Goldstone
Chairman, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

Dr. Victor DeNoble
Fmr. Research Scientist, Philip Morris Tobacco

Merrell Williams
Paralegal who removed documents from Brown & Williamson

Rep. Henry Waxman
Fmr. Chairman, House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment

Professor Stan Glantz
University of California, San Francisco

Jeffrey Wigand
Fmr. Vice President of Research and Development, Brown & Williamson Tobacco

Bennett LeBow
Chair, Liggett Tobacco Group

Martin Broughton
Chairman, British American Tobacco

Ken Clarke M.P.
Deputy Chairman, British American Tobacco

Patricia Henley
Fmr. country and western singer who sued Philip Morris over her inoperable lung cancer. She was awarded $51.5 million.

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