Diana L Avedon

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

Diana L Avedon (aka Diane) was employed at the Tobacco Institute by the State Activities Division (SAD) which controlled various activities at a Regional level through a dozen or so Regional Directors. She is best known for her work in organizing and running a constant stream of lawyers, sham air-testers, and scientists to tour the various regions, to spread the tobacco industry propaganda that Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) ... the so-called problem of "passive smoking" ... was not really a health problem cause by smokers.

The tobacco industry line was that the headaches, eye irritations, and general feelings of nausea experienced by non-smokers in closed office environments was caused by poor indoor air quality (IAQ) which was a more general condition related to the common use of synthetic carpets and photocopiers, which were all relatively new at this time. The theory being promoted was that the vapours from the photocopiers; exudates from the synthetics; and bacterial blooms in the water-tanks of the roof-top air-conditioning system were, in combination, the major cause of the problem.

This was at a time when workers were being housed in new high-rise offices across America. It was also at a time when the energy crisis had forced many building owners and managers to reduce the exchange of air between indoor and outdoor environments, simply to reduce the heating and cooling costs.

They were able to add the further complication of scaremongering the likelihood of Legionnaire's disease (which was news at the time) by beating it up to ridiculous levels. This had legal implications for building owners and occupiers.

Tobacco Industry's Message re ETS

So the messages being promoted were complex:

  • despite the common perception, cigarette smoke was only a minor/trivial component of poor indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • the real problems came from cheap carpets, photocopiers, plastic exudates and synthetic-foam wall insulations and possibly radon gas.
  • the reason for the irritation problems were reduced exchange of air, created by cost-economies in operating air-conditioners
  • building occupiers were cheapskates who put the occupiers at risk of disease and discomfort by reducing the rate of exchange of air.
  • building owners had a legal obligation to maintain their air-conditioning equipment at a level high enough to avoid health effects
  • legionnaire's disease, a potential killer which resulted from poorly maintained and conditioned air conditioners, was a real health risk to workers.
  • the unions needed to enter this fight to improve air conditioning, and ensure maintenance of high rates of air exchange

These messages found support with the sheet-metal unions who suddenly had a bonanza from the need for new air-ducting, and from other trades and professions, ranging from toxicologists, to cleaning firms

1988 to 1993 Diana L Avedon at the Tobacco Institute ran a major media-tour operation called the Scientific Witness Teams. This operation circulated variable teams of TI staff spokespersons, contracted sham air-testing company staff, one or more Covington & Burling lawyers, and other more specialied tobacco lobbyists. They were used in two ways:

  1. As fire-fighters, to turn up in some town or region when problem about public or workplace smoking was arising, and do media interviews.
  2. To make regular media tours through various parts of the country to promote Tobacco Institute propaganda.

They were paid to visit major cities in each state, where the Regional Tobacco Institute staff would have arranged radio, TV or news coverage, and set up meetings with key officials at the local councils, counter air-ports (smoking bans) and meet with the editorial boards of media outlets. This is Diana Avedon's list of the key contractors on these group media-tours. It had the advantage of each participant getting to know the others, which introduced a collegial element to their shared message distortions.

1993 Jun 1   TI list of "Witness/Expert Appearances Scientific/Legal/Spokespersons."
Thomas Lauria
Assistant to the Tobacco Institute President,
Mike Buckley
lawyer-lobbyist with Covington & Burling,
Simon Turner
IAQ witness/executive of ACVA/HBI,
Gio Batta Gori
Corrupt science researcher at Nat. Cancer Institute
He ran the Tobacco Working Group for the industry until fired.
Bill Wordham
Tobacco Institute's Media spokesperson
Gray Robertson
Partner in ACVA then owner of HBI
Lifelong contractor for sham air-testing with TI
Peter Binnie
owner/partner of ACVA and HBI
He sold his share of HBI to Gray Robertson
Larry Holcomb
Ran sham air-testing company (airlines)
Holcomb Environmental Services
John C Fox
Lawyer lobbyist for TI via Pettit & Martin
Later also through Pillsbury Madison & Sutro
Richard Silberman
Healthy Buildings International (HBI)
spokesman on 'sick buildings'
Walter Merryman
TI Public Relations, then Issues Management
Later VP at the Tobacco Institute.
David Remes
legal strategist from the main law firm
Covington & Burling (C&B)
Frank Powell
National Energy Management Institute
(NEMI) organiser who worked for TI
Melinda L Sidak
C&B lawyer; strategist in science corruption
Worked on recruitment of scientists.
Rudy Cole
He ran restaurant front-group RSVP
He organised lobby against smoking bans.
Larry Halfen
Environmental Consultants; TI witness
An attached 1991 Witness List includes
Brennan Dawson
Media relations at the Tobacco Institute
Jeff Seckler
Exec. in charge of HBI's sham air testing
He later turned whistleblower.
Jim Goold
Lawyer sent on media tours by the Tobacco institute to train witnesses.
Joe Pedelty
worked for Holcomb Environmental Services
Did sham air-testing for TI
Jolly Ann Davidson
NASBE school/educational lobbyist,
ran "Helping Youth Decide" program for TI
Dick Wagner
GMU economics professor (Tollison aide)
Key in cash-for-comments network
Bernadette Davidson
lawyer and media lobbyist with John Fox
She was retained by TI as IAQ witness
Walter J Decker
Ran Toxicology Consultancy Services
Provide witness services for the TI
Also attached is a 1990 Witness List (page 35) includes
Bill Orzechowski
TI Director of Economic Issues
He was ex-US Chambers of Commerce
Mike Davis (Dallas Texas)
Prof of Econ. and Business Management
Witness for the Tobacco Institute.
Morris Coats
Prof Economics West Virginia.
Worked in cash-for-comments net.
The main long document has this 1989 witness list attached with the addition (to above)
Dwight Lee
economics professor and leader of
cash-for-comments economists network
David A Weeks
Boise Idaho physician, TI Witness
Partner of S James Kilpatrick in Per-Med Corp.
Alan Kassman
Ex tobacco industry scientist. Retrained
to provide legislative and media briefings.
Robert Tollison
GMU professor of economics who ran the
cash-for-comments economists network
Richard Wagner
Economics professor and TI witness.
Tollison's understudy in c-for-c network
Jack E Peterson
Industrial hygienist; ran Peterson Assoc.
Also worked for Dow Chemicals
Bestype Consulting Corporation
they ran TI's "Sick Building Syndrome"
and "Tight Building Syndrome" seminars.
Dennis A Vaughn
Lawyer-lobbyist for Tobacco Institute,
Associate of John Fox at P&M and PM & Sutro
The 1988 List includes most of above with the additions of:
Alan W Katzenstein
Biostatistician with Katzenstein Assoc.
Witness for Tobacco Institute,
David Brenton
Ran the Smokers Rights Alliance
His wife Sue had her focus on airline smoking.

[Numerous other documents detail the day-to-day organization of these groups spread over five or more years.]

In his later deposition the HBI whistleblower Jeff Seckler testified that she was coordinating the Tobacco Institute's scientific witnesses program in 1989 when he was a member of the media circus team. He said

"Shortly thereafter I received a copy of an internal memo sent to Diana Avedon who coordinated the schedules of TI's scientific witnesses, by Brenda Babcock of TI, telling Avedon that I did a great job. Exhibit A. Babcock was the Northwest Regional TI representative who worked with Kay Thomas Packett, who was in charge of TI's scientific witness program.

(Type-in Bates Number) 500894232

Documents and Timelines

1989 Feb 5 Diana Avedon (Tobacco Institute) reports to Walter Woodson and mentions the possibility of Healthy Buildings International (HBI) doing a test in Wake County NC. [This is the first dated mention of the ACVA's new name of HBI] She also says she "Talked w/Seckler on outcome in Wake Co ., NC -- VERY RECEPTIVE AUDIENCE" [Jeff Seckler, the later whistleblower, worked for HBI] http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/djh77c00/pdf

1989 Mar 21 John Lyons (VP State Activities) has called the Tobacco Institute disinformation staff and their external consultants together for a one-day brainstorming session on "Public Smoking" problems. His agenda details the main problems they were facing:

  • Cigarette tax increases have been proposed in 35 states and DC.
      • One state has already passed a tax increase. [Wyoming + 4¢]
      • Five states have defeated excise increases
      • Bills are anticipated in another 8-13 states.
  • Tax increases on smokeless tobacco is also pending in 18 states
      • One state has defeated excise increases
      • Bills are anticipated in another 8-13 states.
  • Taxes or restrictions on the use of certain packaging materials have been proposed in 17 states. (with another 3 expected)
  • "Fire-Safe" standards for cigarettes are proposed for four states.
      • Legislation is anticipated in another 4 to 10 states.
  • Proposals to 'earmark' existing cigarette taxes have surfaced in 27 states, and Wyoming has since passed a law.
      • These funds are targetted to be used for health care, smoking cessation programs, fire protection, anti-tobacco education, and cancer research. [and many more]
      • Earmarking has been defeated in Mississippi and Wisconson.
  • Toxic Waste laws, like California's Prop 65 Safe Drinking Water Acts have been proposed in four new states. (Hawaii has delayed consideration)
  • Indoor Air Quality standards have been proposed in ten states (and another 4 potentially)
  • Cigarette Sample Bans have been proposed in 13 states and passed in Nebraska and Utah. However bills to stop this type of sampling among young people have been defeated in Hawaii, South Dakota and Washington
      • Sampling legislation is anticipated in another 9-21 states.
  • Legislation to ban tobacco advertising has been proposed in 9 states with another 8 pending. (Hawaii has blocked the legislation)
      • Another 9 to 18 states are considering a ban.
  • Bills to expand or introduce smoking restrictions are being considered in 40 states.
      • Utah has already banned school smoking
      • 21 states will introduce workplace smoking restrictions
      • 13 states are to try bans of public smoking only
      • Washington State has banned smoking in some public transport (ferries)
      • Legislation is anticipated in another 4-6 states
      • 5 states have killed smoking ban legislation
      • Virginia has 'Pre-emptive' legislation to block workplace advertising bans except by the employer.
        • Six other states have similar pre-emptive legislation.
  • Death certificates to show 'contribution' of tobacco use. Eight states have legislation requiring this and six others are considering bills.
  • Vending machine sales restrictions to limit youth access are proposed in 14 states. Georgia, Maryland and Washington have defeated similar bills
  • Sales taxes on advertising expenditure has been imposed by three states. One has rejected.
  • Pre-emptive bills: Eight states propose to prohibit employment discrimination based on smoking and non-smoking.
    • Similar legislation is being considered for 6 more states.


1989 Apr 3 Diana Avedon's Weekly Activity report at the Tobacco Institute has a number of entries which say

  • 27 March Updated CPSP memo
  • 28 March Updated CPSP memo
  • 29 March Updated CPSP memo — copies to Lyons
          Attended CPSP meeting
  • 31 March Reviewed Joe Daniels Activity report on Washington State

    Next Week
    • CPSP updates — call field
    • 2:00 p.m. CPSP meeting 4/5


1989 Sep 27 He was a member of the Tobacco Institute's 'core constituency' of disinformation executives and lawyers who receive carbon copies of confidential information about the TI's corrupt activities. This key document is a briefing by James W Johnston, Chairman of the Executive Committee, Tobacco Institute, about their propaganda and science-corruption operations. [NO ONE RECEIVING A COPY OF THIS DOCUMENT CAN CLAIM NOT TO BE PART OF THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY'S CONSPIRACIES]

[See the cc list on last page.] http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/vnq91f00/pdf

1990 Jul 23 The Tobacco Institute's Public Smoking Issues Group had been resheduled to meet on August 1st.

EPA risk assessment Briefing & Update of TI Activities
State Activities Update
LMC Activities

After the regular Issues meeting, we would like to discuss the EPA Workplace Policy Guidelines and possible responses to the EPA. In that context, we hope to start preliminary discussion of a Workplace Hazards Conference (a workplace McGill)

The "workplace McGill" reference is to the Canadian (Montreal) McGill University ETS Symposium

McGill University ETS Symposium
1989 Nov: The McGill University ETS Symposium was totally controlled and funded by Philip Morris International (they deliberately excluded the Tobacco Institute). The Corporate Affairs Department of PM saw this as the way to control the fight over "smoking freedoms". Philip Morris was keen to set a new aggressive agenda when the other companies were more timid.

The Conference brought together the top industry tobacco lawyers, lobbyists, WhiteCoats, consultants and academic witnesses from around the world into one gigantic 'scientific' confab: Thirty-eight of the participants were flown in from Europe and many corrupt scientists and lawyer were paid to prepare papers.   It was set up on a 'need-to-know-only' basis by Andrew Whist and the staff of Philip Morris International's Corporate Affairs division.

This was a full-expensed-paid, by-invitation-only conference, and every person invited was in the pay of the tobacco industry in some substantial way. However, only the organizers knew this for certain (while many would have guessed). It was seen by Philip Morris primarily as a training exercise for mercenary consultants around the world. They were not dealing with legitimate scientific opinion; this was more a discussion of strategy than of science; participants learned the science tactics to be employed, and potential problems were discussed to ensure all participants carried the same messages and understood the industry's requirements.

Proceedings: The proceedings of this so-called Independent Symposium of ETS Experts were published by a PM phantom organisation called the Institute for International Health & Development. The IIHD had been created by Andrew Whist and lawyers David A Morse and Paul G Dietrich: it was hidden behind the front of the Catholic University in Washington; it later became notorious for a series of attacks mounted on the World Health Organisation's anti-smoking programs.

Conference proceedings were printed in large numbers and distributed by both the IIHD and the Tobacco Institute's auxilliary offices around the world. They were translated into different languages, and parcelled out as if they were trustworthy textbooks on passive smoking. This whole project was judged to be highly successful: very much worth the millions of dollars it must have cost. See document

  • Aug 8 1989: Philip Morris's list of proposed discussants. The speakers are still to be selected. [2]
  • Sep 28 1989: The Agenda with the finalised list of speakers and discussants. [3]

  This venture was followed by the Lisbon Conference (April 1990) and the Montreux Conference (May 1991), and Athens Conference (1992) all organised by paid pseudo-scientific groups -- with the main emphasis being on the publication and wide distribution of the conference proceedings, and also on the training of various academics to act as industry consultants.

Pseudo qualifications: The fact is that any academic with even the most vague pretence of having a health or environmental qualification could be given the qualifications of an expert in indoor air/smoking or health, just by attending these conferences. They would be invited to speak and given help by the tobacco industry to write some semblance of a scientific speech - which might be given to a half-dozen other new recruits in a side-room. But by being included in the conference proceedings, this speech carried the weight (in scientific circles) of "publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal", and this gave the neophyte the status of an accredited and qualified expert.

1993 Feb 25 A Tobacco Institute document labelled "'1993 EPA Briefings"' See related documents:

1993 Sep Cathey Yeo's copy of the Tobacco Institute's State Activities Division (SAD) Lobbyist meeting has listed as Attendees from the Tobacco Institute Staff Diana L Avedon and Dan Shafer, both from Washington DC. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/uqg54b00/pdf

1993 Oct 22 Towards the end of this year there was a reorganisation of the Tobacco Institute where:

  • The overall TI budget was proposed to be cut by 61%, from $38,925,000 down to $15,000,000 mass termination of staff at the Tobacco Institute. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/dpg05b00/pdf
  • 38 staff positions were to be eliminated.
  • 34 staff were to be fired (15 professional and 19 support staff) -- $2m in termination costs.
  • Close all field offices -- terminate 5 Regional VPs
  • Freeze all salary reviews
  • Eliminate the Public Affairs and Federal Relations divisions and merge the remaining staff into Issues Management

< http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/olb97h00/pdf

1993 Nov 17 The key Public Relations Staff at the reduced Tobacco Institute

  • Walter Woodson, VP -- overall responsibility for State Activities Division
  • Cathy Yoe, Director -- Legislative Information
    • Tracy Mihas - Manager, Legislative Information
    • [[Diana L Avedon}Diana Avedon]] - Issue Information Manager - "Senior Legislative Analyst",
    • Karen Fernicola-Suhr - Issues manager
  • [William Orzechowsky|Bill Orzechowsky]] - Chief Economist
  • Carol Hrycaj -- Issues Manager, Taxes
  • Margaret Rita Gore -- Issues Manager, Public Smoking/Marketing restrictions

See page 30 http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/wyr08b00/pdf