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Arnold & Porter on 'the case isn't proven.' 

Jump to full article: Doc-Alert (Smokefree.net), 2002-10-08
Author: Anne Landman


Document Date: 18 Jul 1988 . .

This remarkable memorandum, written by lawyer Thomas Silfen of Philip Morris' law firm Arnold and Porter, comes about as close to soul-searching as a tobacco industry operative probably could. In the memo, Silfen muses about what can be done "to relieve the industry's long agony over health issues--to get the industry out of the 'it hasn't been proven' trap once and for all."

Silfen mulls over the utility of the "hasn't been proven" stance, but discloses its shortfalls when it comes to litigation and public health:

    "In litigation, we have sought to defuse the issue by adopting the slightly softened risk factor position: i.e., there is a statistical association which could possibly be causal, but the evidence is still not conclusive. Out of court, and especially before Congress, that position will not suffice. When the issue is public health not scientific proof, admitting that tobacco is a 'risk' actually highlights the hard questions. How big is the risk: is it 20% proven or 40% proven or 55%?... Given that risk, how many people die from smoking: if not 350,000, is it 200,000 or 100,000? What would it take to convince us that it is proven; are we waiting until every doctor in the world agrees? And what are we going to do once we are finally convinced; will we stop selling the, product, as some company officials have said in the past?"

Despite this, Silfen argues against admitting causation, putting higher priority on the image and liability problems that would be caused if the industry admitted that cigarettes kill people.

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