Rather than follow the lead of other major health groups in supporting Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry’s call for remedial action to begin curbing smoking, the AMA instead entered into a $10 million contract with six tobacco companies to conduct further studies on the health effects of smoking. Criticized by many AMA members–and castigated by Senator Maurine B. Neuberger for doing the tobacco industry’s bidding, AMA leadership defended the AMA’s relationship with the tobacco industry and claimed that the funds would be used to support “independent research” that was needed for the “identification and removal of the harmful components in tobacco.”
“AMA Will Undertake Smoking-Health Study” “Senator Neuberger Sees AMA Aiding Tobacco Trade”(2 pages)
News articles Tobacco: The International Weekly, vol. 157, no. 24, pages 13 and 25
December 13, 1963
“A long-range study to determine the effect that smoking has on the human body was ordered…by the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association…
“‘So many gaps exist in knowledge about the relationship of smoking to health it is the belief of the board [of trustees of the AMA] that an intensive long-range research program, such as is proposed, is imperative…’
“’A mass of statistical information…has been developed indicating certain relationships between smoking: and disease which cannot be ignored , even though the significance of them in terms of cause and effect is still being debated…’
“The board recommended that the long-range program be financed by a substantial contribution from the AMA and solicitations from other sources, such as industry, foundations, voluntary health agencies and private physicians…”
“The proposed research program would be conducted in three phases, according to the board. The first would entail a continuing survey of the literature on the subject.
“Next, there would be research on tobacco and disease, and, finally, coordinating research would be carried out by others…
[NOTE: THE AMA’s ANNOUNCEMENT IN DECEMBER 1963 MADE IT SEEM THAT IT HAD UNDERTAKEN THIS “LONG-RANGE STUDY” ON ITS OWN WHEN IN FACT THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY HAD APPROACHED THE AMA EARLIER THAT FALL TO OFFER AN INITIAL $5 MILLION. THIS WAS NOT PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED UNTIL AFTER THE RELEASE OF THE SURGEON GENERAL’S REPORT ON JANUARY 11, 1964. THE EFFECT WAS TO CONVEY LINGERING DOUBT ABOUT THE FINDINGS OF THE REPORT ON THE PART OF THE AMA.
NO OTHER ENTITIES EVER CONTRIBUTED TO THE AMA’S RESEARCH PROGRAM EXCEPT THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY.]
“Senator Maurine B. Neuberger (D.-Ore.)…questioned the failure of the AMA…to await the pending report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health:
“‘I do not know why the AMA has taken this action in this way, at this time. But I do know that it could not have been better designed to achieve the objectives of the American tobacco industry. So long as the industry succeeds in convincing the American public that the verdict on smoking is not in, that there are great “gaps” of knowledge remaining, that the evidence is still subject to “debate,” the vast majority of habitual smokers will be able to rationalize their habit, comforting themselves in the erroneous belief that the case against the cigarette remains “unproved.”
“‘This tacit recommendation by doctors for the continuation of smoking is a disservice to the American people.'”
“Cigarette Producers Donate $10 Million to AMA Research” (2 pages)
News article Tobacco: The International Weekly, vol. 158, no. 7, pages 9 and 26
February 14, 1964
“The six major United States cigarette manufacturing companies have offered $10 million to the American Medical Association to finance research on smoking and health and the offer has been accepted with no strings attached, Dr. Raymond M. McKeon, president of the AMA’s Education and Research Foundation announced here last week. Dr. McKeon said the offer came in a joint letter signed by presidents of the American Tobacco Company; Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp.; Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company; P. Lorillard Company; Philip Morris, Inc., and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Dr. McKeon previously had announced the appointment of a committee of five scientists to direct the foundation’s basic research to determine how tobacco affects health. Three members of the AMA foundation committee also were members of the United States Surgeon General’s advisory committee which last month announced a unanimous conclusion that smoking is a health hazard. They are Dr. Maurice H. Seevers, chairman of the pharmacology department of the University of Michigan; Dr. John D. Hickam, chairman of internal medicine at Indiana University, and Dr. Charles LeMaistre, professor of internal medicine at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Tex. Dr. Seevers is head of the AMA foundation committee…
“The Surgeon General’s advisory committee reached its conclusion linking smoking and disease on a study of reports and research by others.
“The AMA’s foundation is committed to its own study ‘devoted primarily to determine which significant human ailments may be caused or aggravated by smoking, how they may be caused, the particular element or elements in smoke that may be the causal or aggravating agent, and methods for the elimination of such agent.’…
“The announcement of the project indicated that it would be financed by a substantial contribution from the American Medical Association and that contributions would be solicited from other sources, with the understanding that contributions would be accepted only if given without restrictions. ‘In the hope and expectation that the research project proposed will aid materially in finding solutions to public health problems of national and international concern, the undersigned companies are willing to contribute to the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation for use in financing the research project during the period 1964 through 1968 a total of $10 million.
“The American Cancer Society said it was “pleased to learn that the tobacco companies decided to grant the funds for the “research project to eliminate whatever element there is in the smoke that may induce disease.” “We hope that someday a safe cigarette can become a reality,” the society added. “In the meantime, we would be remiss if we failed to emphasize the causal link, so clearly confirmed in the in the Surgeon General’s report, between lung cancer and cigarette smoking . We cannot forget that this year an estimate 41,000 Americans will die of lung cancer.”
“…AMA is not prepared to make any statement regarding termination of the smoking-health research program” (4 pages)
Letter to Joseph F. Cullman, III, chairman of the board of Philip Morris, from Horace R. Kornegay, president and executive director of the Tobacco Institute, enclosing a confidential memorandum from William Kloepfer, Jr., vice president of the Tobacco Institute discussing Kloepfer’s meeting with Ernest Howard, MD, executive director of the AMA, about the ongoing smoking and health research program of the AMA’s Education and Research Foundation (AMA-ERF) that was entirely funded by the tobacco industry.
September 3 and 7, 1971
“According to Dr. Howard, AMA’s executive director with whom I met today, AMA is not prepared to make any statement regarding termination of the smoking-health research program. [He] knows of no statement which would not further damage the images of both itself and the tobacco industry and is under no internal pressure to make any more at this time in the matter…
“…our purpose in seeing Howard was to notify him that the ‘executive committee’ has rejected a recommendation that surplus ERF tobacco funds be earmarked for ‘minority group’ medical student support.
“…Howard said he regards the program as a great liability–that from AMA’s view it has only caused further blackening of AMA’s image. He said from the industry’s standpoint the research has produced no evidence to clear cigarettes from the generally accepted conclusion that they cause ‘lung carcinoma’ and other maladies.
“…He [Howard] is most anxious to avoid any incident which will create displeasure with AMA among tobacco area Congressmen–he said AMA needs their support urgently.”