Athens Conference

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.


The Athens Conference was one or an annual series of symposiums and conferences used by the tobacco industry to bring together the WhiteCoats (corrupted scientists) as a way of generating coherence and developing a standardised way of countering claims that passive smoking (ETS) was injurious to health. It was organised by George Leslie and his wife, using the Indoor Air International (IAI) front created by Leslie and Professor Roger Perry. This was an offshoot of ARIA, the European WhiteCoats so-called scientific association on indoor air pollution.

These conferences were also used as a form of training for new recruits, because the industry's so-called experts often had no knowledge of the discipline of ETS (passive smoking) or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) research at all. By having participants make speeches at these conferences (often using ghosted material written or re-written by scientist from the cigarette companies) the published proceedings of the conference could be used as a form of 'peer-reviewed citation', providing them with entirely false credentials as indoor air pollution specialists.

These became annual events, fully funded by Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (via its US Subsidiary Brown & Williamson) and RJ Reynolds Tobacco. Japan Tobacco Company became involved after 1992.

  • The first of these conferences was the McGill University ETS Symposium (Nov 1989) with about 200 participants. Totally controlled and funded by Philip Morris.
  • The second -- actually a back-to-back pair of Lisbon Conferences -- were held in Portugal (Apr 24-26 1990)
  • The Montreux Conference was the third. (May 1991)
  • The fourth was an Athens Conference held in Greece (1992)
  • The fifth is an unidentified conference also organised by Indoor Air International (IAI) (May 1993) It may have been also in Lisbon.
What makes an understanding of these conferences rather complex is that Philip Morris used a number of levels of 'cut-outs' to ensure that the funding and control of these "Quality of Indoor Environment" conferences could not be traced back to themselves or other tobacco companies that were involved behind the scenes.

The scientific organisation which supposedly ran the conference was the Swiss Registered organisation "Indoor Air International" which had a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the same name. To a certain extent this was a genuine scientific organisation -- in that it had genuine members who were not aware of the tobacco connections. Some may have been independent scientists doing honest research.

However the organisation was run by George N Leslie, Frank W Lundau, Roger Perry, John Gorrod and 'Max' (DF) Weetman -- and this group (plus a few others who formed executive or conference committees) were long-term consultants to the tobacco industry. These were also the peer-reviewers and editors of the published proceedings -- and it was their own contributions which found their way into the final books. The committee often seemed to have enough excess cash to afford to translate these proceedings into languages other than English, and then distribute copies widely for free.

These cabals of secret scientific consultants in Europe were recruited by the tobacco law-firm Covington & Burling (via lawyer John Rupp). C&B also set up a number of pseudo-expert scientific associations (ARIA, EGIL, EMiES, APAIAQ) which served as cut-outs to launder payments made to any compliant scientist working in universities or for government research institutions.

The model for these groups was the:

The main European version was:

  • Asian Regional Tobacco Industry Scientists Team (ARTIST)

    ARIA also split off The International Association for Indoor Air Quality which became known as Indoor Air International (IAI). This was not a consulting firm, but rather as a scientific organisation with a "peer-reviewed journal" of the same name. This organisation sometimes appears in the literature as Association for Indoor Air (AIA). |

    They also had another journal "Indoor Environment" which became "Indoor and Built Environment"