A Package from Mr. Butts

Picture of package

Forty-one years after the Plaza conference, on a May morning in 1994, a bulky Federal Express carton was dropped off at the office door of a University of California professor of medicine. Inside was nothing less than a capsule history of what the cigarette industry had been up to since the Plaza meeting - 4,000 pages of memos, scientific reports, meeting minutes, and letters from the files of the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, the nation's third largest cigarette manufacturer, and British-American Tobacco (BAT), B&W's parent company.

The sender was identified only as "Mr. Butts" (after the feisty talking cigarette in Doonesbury). These documents and others were leaked to the press and ultimately posted on the Internet. Later it was learned that they came from a paralegal named Merrell Williams. An ailing smoker, Williams had been hired by one of B&W's law firms to help catalogue the documents. He became so outraged by what he read that he began smuggling them out in his clothes and photocopying them.

In between the conference at the Plaza and the mysterious arrival of that carton of files, more than 11 million Americans were killed by smoking. This is the story of the men and women who sold the cigarrettes.