Operation Berkshire is the name of a program initiated in 1976 by seven of the world's major tobacco companies aimed at promoting "controversy" over smoking and disease.
At the invitation of the Chairman of Imperial Tobacco, the CEOs of the tobacco companies met in secret in June 1977 in the United Kingdom "to develop a defensive smoking and health strategy, to avoid our countries and/or companies being picked off one by one, with a resultant domino effect." They agreed to create a front organization, the International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI) (renamed the International Tobacco Information Centre, INFOTAB, in 1981), which operated through an internationally coordinated network of national manufacturers' associations to retard measures for tobacco control.:1273–1282
The purpose of ICOSI/INFOTAB is best described in a document entitled "Conspiracy Notebook" produced by Brown & Williamson in the context of the US racketeering lawsuit against tobacco companies::1279
The American tobacco industry, working with its counterparts in other countries around the world, organised ICOSI, later renamed INFOTAB for the purpose of coordinating the worldwide response of the industry to anti-tobacco activities. INFOTAB was used to formulate and publish a consensus position on the part of the industry. It monitored anti-tobacco organizations. It created an information service for the purpose of accumulating and disseminating intelligence on anti-smoking activities. It was used to identify and enlist allies around the world for the tobacco industry, to perform studies and research whose results would be helpful, and to rebut data and allegations from anti-smoking forces. The organization worked closely with TI [the Tobacco Institute, an industry front organization disbanded in 1998] in carrying out this mission.
Tobacco companies because of their participation in National Cancer Institute Tobacco Working Group opposed to funding of such projects as cessation tobacco programs and also withheld knowledge about the effects of cigarettes.
The conspiracy was discovered in November 1998, as part of the Master Settlement Agreement between the U.S. tobacco industry and various states' attorneys general. U.S. tobacco companies were compelled to publicly disclose approximately 40 million pages of previously confidential documents. During the course of the Minnesota Attorney General litigation (State of Minnesota, et al.) the district court ordered the domestic parties to establish a document depository in Minnesota for the documents produced in that action.
Operation Berkshire was created as a unified defensive strategy among international tobacco companies. The code name was initially suggested in a confidential memorandum to the then President of Philip Morris International, Hugh Cullman, by the then Chairman of Imperial Tobacco in the UK, A. G. (Tony) Garrett.
The plan formed when major tobacco companies met together to form a unified defense against anti-smoking legislation. They agreed that they would not voluntarily make certain concessions about smoking and, if legislation was passed to force them, they would agree to sue. In particular, they decided that they would not concede the point that smoking has adverse health effects and would instead attempt to create controversy, lest they be held legally liable for the deaths of smokers. They also formulated coordinated activities to promote the social acceptability of smoking.
Similar behavior was demonstrated by the top seven biggest U.S. tobacco company CEOs, dubbed the "seven dwarfs", testifying together before the U.S. Congress during a hearing on the regulation of tobacco products on April 14, 1994, in which they collectively denied, under oath, the addictive nature of nicotine, despite at least one published New York Times report at the time claiming that it has the ability to be more addictive than heroin, cocaine or amphetamines. Several of the tobacco executives also lied under oath falsely stating that their companies did not manipulate nicotine levels in cigarettes.
- Francey, Neil; Simon Chapman (2000-08-05). ""Operation Berkshire": the international tobacco companies' conspiracy". British Medical Journal. 321 (7257): 371–4. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7257.371. PMC 1118337. PMID 10926602.
- William K. Howell director and vice President of Philip Morris is credited with the marketing success of Marlboro cigarettes, after introducing the Marlboro man to the International world. United States of America (September 2, 2004). "United States of America v. Philip Morris et al.: United States' Factual Memorandum Pursuant to Order # 470, Section V" (PDF). United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
- Kessler, Gladys (August 17, 2006). "United States of America v. Philip Morris et al.: Final Opinion of Judge Gladys Kessler" (PDF). United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 23, 2013.
- Cristin E. Kearns; Stanton A. Glantz; Laura A. Schmidt (March 10, 2015). "Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research's 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents". PLOS Medicine. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001798. PMC 4355299.
- "Smoke In Their Eyes". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
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- "Hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment". April 14, 1994 – via PBS Frontline.
Mr. Campbell [CEO of Philip Morris]: ... Phillip Morris does not add nicotine to our cigarettes. Phillip Morris does not manipulate nor independently control the level of nicotine in our products.Missing or empty
Mr. James Johnston: [CEO of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company]: ... We do not add or otherwise manipulate nicotine to addict smokers....
- Lauran Neergaard (July 31, 1995). "Waxman Says Philip Morris Manipulated Nicotine in Cigarettes". Associated Press.
- Stanton A. Glantz, John Slade, Lisa A. Bero, Peter Hanauer, and Deborah E. Barnes, editors, The Cigarette Papers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
- Ciresi MV, Walburn RB, Sutton TD. "Decades of deceit: Document discovery in the Minnesota tobacco litigation". William Mitchell Law Review 1999;25:477–566.
- State of Minnesota, et al. v. Philip Morris, Inc., et al., No. C1-94-8565 (2d Dist. Minn.) (Ramsey County).
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- Tobacco Archives