Jeffrey Wigand

Jeffrey Wigand had been a vice president of research at Brown & Williamson since 1989. He originally had been hired to work on the development of a safer cigarette. But the project was dropped and in March 1993 Wigand was fired.

Several months later, Brown & Williamson sued Wigand for breach of contract for disclosing to a colleague details of his separation agreement and wanted to take away his medical benefits. Wigand reluctantly settled and signed a life-long confidentiality agreement.

Wigand got in touch with Lowell Bergman, senior producer for CBS "60 Minutes." Word started to filter out that Wigand was telling CBS secrets about Brown and Williamson. That's when an FDA agent called Wigand, asking him if he would help the agency find out about tobacco companies activities.

When Wigand saw tobacco executives testify to Congress that nicotine was not addictive - including Tommy Sandefur, his ex-boss, now CEO of Brown & Williamson - it convinced Wigand to start talking to the FDA. Wigand was instrumental in helping Kessler find evidence of what the tobacco companies were doing to make cigarettes stronger and more addictive. By the end of the summer of 1994 Wigand had helped the FDA get thousands of pages of explicit evidence that cigarettes were drug delivery devices.

But Wigand paid a price for blowing the whistle. He lost his $300,000-a-year job at Brown and Williamson and any chance to be hired as a high-level researcher. By June 1997, Wigand's marriage had fallen apart, he was teaching high school science and living on $30,000 a year. Industry-paid detectives were following him and he was facing a lawsuit from Brown & Williamson for breaking a confidentiality agreement.

 

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