“Operation Berkshire”: the international tobacco companies' conspiracyBMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7257.371 (Published 05 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:371
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Francey and Chapman (1) mistakenly suggest that Philip Morris has
made an admission that cigarette smoking causes serious disease (their
reference 35) when, in fact, the company has done no such thing.
While the company's web site (2) indeed does say, "There is an
overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking
causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in
smokers," the opinion expressed is attributed to others. The company does
not itself subscribe to this view. The company emphasized this point in
its proxy statement to shareholders last March:
On the issues of the role played by cigarette smoking in the
development of lung cancer and other diseases in smokers, and whether
nicotine, as found in cigarette smoke, is "addictive," the Company [has]
stated that despite the differences that may exist between its views and
those of the public health community, it would, in order to ensure that
there will be a single, consistent public health message on these issues,
refrain from debating the issues other than as necessary to defend itself
and its opinions in the courts and other forums in which it is required to
Others, including The New York Times (4) and the American Cancer
Society (5), have also mistakenly concluded that Philip Morris has made an
admission regarding causation when, in fact, the company has not done so.
The company seems to be intent on fostering this misimpression since it
has not publicly corrected the mistaken conclusions of the Times or the
While the Philip Morris website also indicates that its customers and
potential customers should "rely" on the scientific consensus of harm in
making "decisions" about smoking, the company itself does not seem to rely
on this consensus in deciding how to market its deadly, addictive
products. Were it actually relying on this scientific consensus, one
might expect advertising for Marlboro to consist entirely of efforts to
help people stop smoking instead of enticements for them to use this
Philip Morris seems unlikely to change its behavior towards its
customers and potential customers until it is required to do so by
governmental regulation. There is no evidence that the company has
changed its fundamental positions at all, and we should not expect it to
act in the public interest until it is compelled to do so.
1. Francey N, Chapman S. "Operation Berkshire": the international
tobacco companies' conspiracy. BMJ 2000;321:371-374. (5 August.)
2. Philip Morris. Cigarette smoking. Health issues for smokers, 13
(accessed 22 August 2000).
3. Philip Morris. Notice of annual meeting of stockholders Thursday,
April 27, 2000 and proxy statement. New York: Philip Morris, 10 March
2000, page 36.
4. Editorial. New strategy at Philip Morris. The New York Times 4
2000, page A-14.
5. American Cancer Society. Is Philip Morris serious or just blowing
smoke? The New York Times 7 August, 2000, page A-5.
Competing interests: No competing interests