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Canadian Tobacco Company Destroyed Decades of Study Evidence that Linked Cigarettes to Cancer

posted 12:24 AM EST, Thu October 15, 2009
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Canadian Tobacco Company Destroyed Decades of Study Evidence that Linked Cigarettes to Cancer © Photo Credit: aloshbennett

Imperial Tobacco Canada knew for decades that cigarettes caused cancer, that second hand smoke was harmful and that filters didn’t work – but they weren’t telling and they made sure things stayed quiet by destroying a mountain of research study evidence.

University of Waterloo Researchers have released a scathing review study proving that Imperial Tobacco Canada destroyed the results from 60 research studies done between 1967 and 1984 that linked tobacco to cancer.

The files were destroyed in Canada, but copies of the files were archived in London at the headquarters of British American Tobacco, the parent company of Imperial Tobacco Canada.  The Waterloo researchers became aware of the missing studies after a US court released literally millions of pages of documentary evidence unveiled during a past case. The 60 destroyed studies:

  • Linked tobacco to cancer
  • Proved that second hand smoke was more harmful than direct smoke
  • Proved that filters did not protect smokers from harm

The review, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal asserts that the company destroyed the studies to minimize "exposing the company to liability or embarrassment."

Lead author, cancer researcher Dr. David Hammond, said that while they did not originally intend on critiquing the company so severely, that the company's behavior left them no alternative. He explained, saying, "Not only did they not reveal these studies but they destroyed them. It's very difficult to write this review from any other angle. What was the evidence they were so worried about being uncovered?"

Hammond explains that many of the studies show that the company was working on improving the safety profile of their cigarettes. Unfortunately, the techniques they were trying, like adding improved filters, just weren’t working. He explains their intents, saying, "They took on the research in good faith. The problem is they weren't getting the results they wanted. And the product modifications they pursued weren't working.”

He says that had the company released the data from their studies, that public-health anti-smoking efforts in Canada may have begun a whole lot sooner than they did.

Hammond says that at the time of the studies (in the 1980s) the tobacco company denied their existence and stated that no evidence existed to conclusively link smoking to cancer.

The Province of Ontario has already initiated a 50 billion dollar lawsuit against the company. The researchers speculate that this latest documentary evidence of deception may prove costly for the company, as provincial governments now seek to recoup billions in healthcare costs and the tobacco company can no longer deny its long known awareness of the health consequences of smoking (3 other provinces have filed, or are considering filing, lawsuits).

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