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U.S. historian: tobacco industry relied on incomplete reports in lawsuit

The Canadian Press  Published Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 3:38PM EST  MONTREAL
— Academics hired by the tobacco industry to paint a historical portrait
of how much the public knew about the harmful effects of tobacco use left
out an important element, according to a witness at a class-action trial:
internal documents from the companies themselves.
Robert Proctor is testifying for the plaintiffs before the Quebec
Superior Court at a landmark $27 billion lawsuit that pits an estimated
1.8 million Quebecers against the country’s three major tobacco
manufacturers — Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.; Rothmans, Benson & Hedges;
and JTI-Macdonald.
Proctor, a historian from California’s Stanford University, is a
self-described cigarette historian and public-health advocate. He has
published extensively on the history of smoking, tobacco and health.

He says that historians hired by Canada’s big three tobacco companies to
file reports for the class-action suit produced documents laden with
flaws and omissions that Proctor says are significant.
Proctor says that by ignoring the industry data, they paint a false
picture that people were aware 50 years ago of the effects of smoking
when, in fact, the internal documents say the opposite.
He says that led to incomplete conclusions.
“All three (historians) fail to consult the tobacco industry’s internal
documents, which reveal a decades-long conspiracy to downplay the hazards
of smoking,” Proctor wrote.
“All three ignore the tobacco industry’s denialist campaign, which in the
global aggregate must figure as one of the deadliest conspiracies in the
history of human civilization.”
Proctor’s official testimony began Tuesday with frequent objections from
lawyers representing the tobacco industry.
On Monday, they’d fought against Proctor receiving expert status,
labelling him as biased and unqualified to discuss the tobacco industry
in Canada and Quebec.
Proctor’s base of knowledge is largely U.S.-based, but he says the trends
in both countries are similar. Justice Brian Riordan agreed late Monday
to allow Proctor to testify.
The U.S. historian’s testimony is expected to continue at least until the
end of this week.
Another star witness, Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco
executive-turned-whistleblower and was portrayed in “The Insider,” a
major motion picture in 1999, by actor Russell Crowe.
Wigand is scheduled to appear in December.
Numerous witnesses have already appeared before the Quebec Superior Court
since the trial began last March, including former and current tobacco
industry executives. The case has heard more than 80 days of testimony
with thousands of pages of documents filed into evidence.
It has taken 13 years to reach the trial phase. It stems from two cases
that were filed in 1998, certified and consolidated in 2005 by Quebec
Superior Court, and there were motions, delays and appeals before it got
underway in 2012.
The trial is expected to last about two years

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