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Tobacco industry critic makes case for federal regulation of tobacco products

Jeffrey Wigand
Jeffrey Wigand
LEXINGTON, Ky.—Tobacco industry critic Jeffrey Wigand, speaking at Transylvania University on Tuesday, March 3, on the topic “Insider’s View of the Tobacco Industry,” made the case for federal regulation of tobacco products while recounting his experiences as a former executive at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation who went public with inside information on that company’s research and marketing practices.

Wigand, vice president for research and development at Brown & Williamson from 1988-93, decided to violate his confidentiality agreement with his former employer in 1995 and reveal information on the company’s research involving nicotine content and its effects on addictiveness in smokers.

He was subsequently the subject of a CBS 60 Minutes expose and a 1999 Hollywood movie titled The Insider that depicted his story as a corporate whistler-blower and as a key witness in a multi-state trial that resulted in Kentucky and 39 other states getting tobacco settlement money.

“Federal regulation should compel tobacco companies to disclose all the additives in their products,” Wigand said. “Smokers should have the same level of knowledge the industry itself has. I have no problem with adult smokers who assume the risk, provided they do it with informed consent.”

Wigand joined Brown & Williamson with the goal of developing a less hazardous cigarette and devising the testing protocol that would allow the company to make this claim in its advertising campaigns. He accused the company of thwarting this purpose and misrepresenting the facts of his research and findings.

Ultimately, Wigand came to believe that breaking his confidentiality agreement about these matters after leaving the company was a moral issue.

“There was a higher level of loyalty involved, and that was loyalty to the truth,” he said. “I followed my moral compass. I continue doing what I believe is right, regardless of the consequences.”

Wigand now spends his time as an expert witness and consultant on tobacco issues, giving lectures around the world, and supporting his non-profit organization, Smoke-Free Kids, Inc. He said he spends 182 days a year talking with elementary and middle school students about making good decisions regarding tobacco use.

He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the State University of New York Buffalo. Before joining Brown & Williamson, he held senior management positions with several leading healthcare companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

Wigand appeared at Transylvania as part of psychology professor Meg Upchurch’s Bingham-Young Professorship titled Drugged America, which looks at the impact of drugs on American society.

3/4/2009

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