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September 25, 1996

Smokescreen: The Truth Behind the Tobacco Industry Cover-up

JAMA. 1996;276(12):998. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120076040

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On December 15, 1953, in Manhattan's luxurious Plaza Hotel, executives of America's most lucrative tobacco companies sat down to plan a strategy to combat the growing animal and epidemiologic evidence of a tobacco hazard. Cigarette consumption in the United States had suffered its first major decline in decades, falling from 418 billion in 1952 to 384 billion. John Hill of the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton proposed a massive campaign to counter reports of the hazards, and the chief executive officers from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, American Tobacco, US Tobacco, and Benson & Hedges gave the go-ahead. The result was the establishment of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC), a triumph of deception in the guise of research. In the words of H. Lee Sarokin, a New Jersey judge who reviewed the history of the TIRC for a case in 1988, the organization " 'was nothing but