Addison Yeaman Memo

This memo was one of the documents stolen by Merrell Williams when he worked for a Brown & Williamson law firm. His documents were leaked to Congress by Dick Scruggs and Mike Moore and ended up on the Internet after being delivered to anti-tobacco activist, Professor Stan Glantz at the University of California, San Francisco. He received the documents from an unknown source "Mr. Butts."

The document is an internal Brown & Williamson memo from July 17, 1963. It is written by Addison Yeaman, General Counsel for Brown & Williamson. He is summarizing the soon-to-be-released Surgeon General's report and assessing potential damage to the cigarette industry. The document is critically important; it indicates that top level executives in the tobacco industry knew about the dangers of smoking back in the early 1960's, but they continued to deny them for over thirty years.

In this paragraph, Yeaman is responding to the upcoming Surgeon General's Report and concluding that it's highly likely that cigarettes will be shown to cause cancer.

..............Whatever qualifications we may assert to minimize the impact of the Report, we must face the fact that a responsible and qualified group of previously non-committed scientists and medical authorities have spoken. One would suppose we would not repeat Dr. Little's oft reiterated "not proven". One would hope the industry would act affirmatively and not merely react defensively. We must, I think recognize that in defense of the industry and in preservation of its present earnings position, we must either a) disprove the theory of causal relationship or b) discover the carcinogen or carcinogens, co-carcinogens, or whatever, and demonstrate our ability to remove or neutralize them. This means that we must embark--in whatever form of organization--on massive and impressively financed research into the etiology of cancer of the lung. Certainly one would hope to prove there is no etiology of cancer as it relates to the use of tobacco; what constituents or combination of constituents in cigarette smoke cause or are conducive to cancer of the lung. Certainly one would hope to prove there is no etiological factor in smoke but the odds are greatly against success in that effort. At the best, the probabilities are that some combination of constituents of smoke will be found conducive to the onset of cancer or to create an environment in which cancer is more likely to occur.

In this paragraph, Yeaman is describing what will likely occur after the Surgeon General's Report is released and the cigarette industry comes under attack.  All of these measures are now (1998) being attempted, but were not attempted in 1963, when the memo was written.

......Thus to accept its responsibility would, I suggest, free the industry to take a much more aggressive posture to meet attack. It would in particular free the industry to attack the Surgeon General's Report itself by pointing out its gaps and omissions, its reliance on statistics, its lack of clinical evidence, etc., etc. True we might worsen our situation in litigation, but that I would risk in contemplation of the greater benefits to be derived from going on the offensive. My record of advice in this area may well justify the charge of inconsistency, but let me say that so long as the industry does not assume its research responsibility my long-held position would remain unchanged and I would oppose either outright attacks on the Surgeon General's Report or the giving of assurance to the smoking public not supported by research evidence.

There is however the problem of what to do until the doctor comes and this leads me to the second of the two measures I would urge the industry to take:

2. The Surgeon General's Report will, of course set off attacks all along the line. Our harsher critics--Senators Moss and Neuberger, the American Cancer Society, et al. will immediately press for all sorts of restrictive and repressive programs:

a) Public education directed particularly at the young.

b) Much harsher FTC rules in respect of cigarette advertising, with restriction of the scope and control of content thereof. One might anticipate rules seeking to prevent the use of "glamour situations", endorsements including those of athletes, prominent entertainment figures, etc., and quite likely an effort to bar tobacco advertising from television and radio.

c) "Content" labeling or cautionary legends.

d) FTC to be given power of preliminary injunction in respect of cigarette advertising.

e) Repressive taxation.

Here, Yeaman suggests that the industry attempt to deter criticism by voluntarily agreeing to warning labels on cigarette packs.

..............To accomplish anything effective, the Institute needs the leadership of a strong tobacco figure, e.g., Albert Clay, Paul Hahn, etc., a highly expert trade association staff including experienced and respected lobbyists and, lastly, such adornments of public figures an appearance and occasion warrant.

The question immediately arise: how would such aggressive posture affect litigation? With one exception (Green v. American Tobacco Co,), those actions which have gone to judgment were won by the defendants on the defense of assumption of risk. The issuance of the Surgeon General's Report will, in my opinion, insure the success of that defense as to causes of action arising in the future if the industry can steel itself to issuing a warning. I have no wish to be tarred and feathered, but I would suggest the industry might serve itself on several fronts if it voluntarily adopted a package legend such as "excessive use of this products may be injurious to health of susceptible persons: and would embody such a legend in pica in its shocking--that I would rather not try to anticipate the arguments against it in this note but reserve my defense.

It is difficult to assess the effect of the Report on causes of action arising prior to its issuance. Logically, it would be argued, the Report does no more than to collate pre-existing knowledge, knowledge as available to the buyer as the seller. But logic might--in the minds of a jury--yield to the emotional reaction that if this knowledge was available to the seller it was up to him, having the means to do so, to make the product safe. A jury might, whether instructed or not, operate on the theory of comparative negligence: "True the buyer was negligent in smoking a product he knew was dangerous, but he was lulled by the seller and the seller's negligence was the greater in failing to make his product safe.

In this section, Yeaman seems to be suggesting that the industry admit that nicotine is addictive and that the industry sells nicotine.  He also admits that cigarettes cause lung cancer and may cause emphysema.  He suggests that they challenge these claims, but also offer better filters to calm smoker's health worries.

............................."Our investigation definitely shows that both kinds of drugs (Rauwolfin alkaloids and nicotine) act quite differently, and that nicotine may be considered (its cardiovascular effects not being contemplated here) as more 'beneficial'--or less noxious--than the new tranquilizers, from some very important points of view.

"The so-called 'beneficial' effects of nicotine are of two kinds:"

"1. Enhancing effect on the pituitary-adrenal response to stress;"

"2. Regulation of body weight."

"These effects do not seem to be shared by reserpine, which on the contrary shows undesirable side-actions that are not given by nicotine, i.e. a nearly complete blockade of gonadic and thyroid activities, reflecting most probably a general blockade of the hypothalamo-pituitary system, which normally controls all the endocrine activities."

Moreover, nicotine is addictive.

We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive, drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms. But cigarettes--we will assume the Surgeon General's committee to say--despite the beneficent effect of nicotine, have certain unattractive side effects:

1) They cause, or predispose to, lung cancer.

2) They contribute to certain cardiovascular disorders.

3) They may well be truly causative in emphysema, etc. etc.

We challenge those charges and we may have assumed our obligation to determine their truth or falsity by creating the new Tobacco Research Foundation. In the meantime (we say) here is our triple, or quadruple or quintuple filter, capable of removing whatever constituent of smoke is currently suspect while delivering full flavor--and incidentally--a nice jolt of nicotine. And if we are the first to be able to make and sustain that claim, what price Kent?

Dare we as a matter of policy make such claims? If they are true and if we make no claim of freedom from danger--indeed, if we cry caution--why should we not ? I would submit that the FTC in the face of 1) the industry's research effort, 2) the truth of our claims, and 3) the "public interest" in our filter, cannot successfully deny us the right to inform the public.

As for litigation, it would be my opinion that we would not put ourselves in substantially worsened position and in any event a successful Avalon could be expected to satisfy a number of judgments for damages.

Have we an obligation to make our knowledge available to our competitors? If the Griffith claims stand up and when we have perfected the Griffith filter and stocked, the necessary machinery, etc., then I suggest there is strong moral obligation on us to make our knowledge public and free. And think of the kudos. I will be vastly surprised if such disclosure markedly adds to our competitors' knowledge but that is beside the point.

The point is: On this new terrain, permitting strong offensive action, we get there fastest with the mostest.


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