·  by Benjamin Hulac   ·  Scientific American

Tobacco and Oil Industries Used Same Researchers to Sway Public

Organizations worried about climate change have long drawn comparisons between the petroleum and tobacco industries, arguing that each has minimized public health damages of its products to operate unchecked.

Some have urged federal regulators to prosecute oil companies under racketeering charges, as the Department of Justice did in 1999 in a case against Philip Morris and other major tobacco brands.

Oil companies bristle at the comparison. But overlap between both industries existed as early as the 1950s, new research details.

Documents housed at the University of California, San Francisco, and analyzed in recent months by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, show that the oil and tobacco industries have been linked for decades. The files CIEL drew its research from have been public for years.

The unknown author of one memo, who once worked for Standard Oil Co. Inc. of New Jersey, suggested scientists for an advisory committee study the health effects of smoking.

“I am giving below the names of individuals who you might consider as potential members of the Medical Advisory Committee for the tobacco industry, as related to its current medical problem,” the person wrote to a tobacco research board, alluding to building evidence that smoking caused health problems.

Both industries hired public relations company Hill & Knowlton Inc., an influential New York firm, for outreach as early as 1956.

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