Claude Robert Cloninger

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

Claude Robert Cloninger, M.D. is a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis and is considered a tobacco industry expert (testifies for the defense in tobacco cases). Dr. Cloninger was a paid consultant for the tobacco industry in the Castano class action and is seen as the biggest gun in the industry's arsenal.


Claude R. Cloninger was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1944. In 1973 he affiliated with the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri and was eventually appointed head of the department of psychiatry in 1989. He specializes in the genetic epidemiology of psychiatric disorders. His interest areas include personality disorders, schizophrenia, and alcoholism. I n the 1990s, he undertook molecular genetic linkage studies of the inheritance of alcoholism.

This widely respected scientist has attracted national attention over the past few years for his work on a possible genetic predisposition to alcoholism. Dr. Cloninger has been studying the personality traits of smokers. In testimony submitted to the FDA and in a 1993 tobacco-liability suit, Dr. Cloninger said nervous smokers have a harder time quitting. The anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms some smokers experience, he argues, may have more to do with their personalities than with nicotine. "I am very concerned the approach the Surgeon General took in 1988, labeling cigarettes as an addiction," he says. "I have seen many of my patients use that as an excuse not to stop." He says he has refused to testify in alcohol-related cases for "lawyers who want me to say that alcoholism is a genetic disease - that [alcoholics] should be released from responsibility for their actions." Dr. Cloninger believes that nicotine is vastly different from addictive drugs because it isn't intoxicating. A nonsmoker, Dr. Cloninger says his sons quit smoking "without any trouble." In a 1993 trial, Dr. Cloninger testified that while the tobacco industry paid him $300/hr. as an expert witness, it hadn't - and says still hasn't - provided any funding for his research. (Tobacco Dream Team: Experts Who Insist Nicotine Isn't Addictive, WSJ 3/23/95)

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