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The Council for Tobacco Research USA, Inc. contracted with Microbiological Associates of Bethesda, Maryland (a lab), to do the world's largest inhalation study, involving more than 10,000 mice. To perform they study, the Council spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a quest for the perfect smoking machine, one that prevented mice from either holding their breath or overdosing on carbon monoxide. The lab initially had considerable freedom, says Carol Henry, who was its director of inhalation toxicology. But after nine years of work and $ 12 million, the team was told in 1982 that it could no longer meet with Council staffers unless a lawyer was present. "We had never done science through lawyers before, and we told them it was unacceptable," says Henry. She said a Jacob Medinger lawyer told her, "That's the way it is."
The scientists knuckled under, concerned that if the Council canceled their contract before all phases of the first experiment were done, 40 staffers might lose their jobs and nine years' worth of data would never come to light. In the first experiment, in which mice inhaled the equivalent of five cigarettes a day, five days a week, for 110 weeks, 19 out of 978 mice got cancer versus seven out of 651 controls. However, the tumors weren't squamous-cell carcinomas, the kind usually seen in human lung cancer. And there was a 10-percent possibility the results were due to chance, whereas scientists prefer no more than 5 percent. Despite this, Henry said the study had built a "very strong case" that cigarettes can induce cancers in animals. This was to be the first of several experiments, but lawyers from Jacob Medinger told Microbiological Associates that the project would go no further.
"When a contract is canceled given these kinds of results," Henry says, "reasonable scientists might conclude the liability issue must have suddenly become apparent to this group." In fact, the Council's former associate scientific director, Dr. Kreisher, said CTR lawyers "worried like hell" about it. Microbiological Associates and the Council parted ways, but the tobacco industry got plenty of mileage out of the Microbiological mice. In 1984, the Council issued a news release noting the absence of squamous-cell lung cancer in the lab's study. The timing wasn't coincidental: That year, lawyers from Liggett, Philip Morris and Lorillard began taking depositions in the landmark case of Mrs. Cipollone, a New Jersey woman whose family claimed she had died of smoking related squamous-cell lung cancer. And at the federal trial four years later, a witness for the defense said the fact that the smoking mice didn't get squamous-cell carcinoma (although some did get cancer) showed that "cigarette smoke has not been shown to be a cause of lung cancer." (Sacramento Bee, February 28, 1993)(Wall Street Journal, 2/11/93)
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