Gentleman's Agreement

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

The Gentleman's Agreement was an informal agreement between the largest American tobacco manufacturers and British American Tobacco wherein they agreed not to engage in in-house biological testing of cigarettes or compete over whose products were least hazardous to smokers. This was done in part to assure that they wouldn't have to publicly address questions about the diseases caused by smoking, according to government lawyers who brought the U.S. Department of Justice 1999 case against U.S. tobacco industry. The so-called "Gentleman's Agreement" is notable legally because it infers conspiracy to defraud the public about the hazards of smoking. [1]

Tobacco industry documents supporting the existence of the Gentleman's Agreement

A 1968 memo titled "Need for Biological Research by Philip Morris Research and Development," from Helmut Wakeham (Philip Morris' Director of Research) to Clifford Henry Goldsmith (PM USA's Chief of Operations) stressed the need for the company to engage in internal biological research on its own products, saying "...we face a real need to obtain our own facts and data ... to counteract conclusions drawn from these [public health] studies." But the memo also alludes strongly to the rumored "gentleman's agreement" wherein the major U.S. tobacco companies agreed not to compete on the basis of smoking and health, or perform in-house biological research:

"We have reason to believe that in spite of previous arrangements within the tobacco industry at least some of the major companies have been increasing biological studies within their own facilities." [Italicized emphasis added].

The memo also mentions how the American Tobacco Company had already secretly moved their research out of a medical school and into an in-house facility:

"Further, the biomedical work supported by American Tobacco at the Medical College of Virginia ... was relocated under conditions of extreme secrecy during this past summer from the college to their new research facilities at Bermuda Hundred."[2]

In 1976, British American Tobacco opted out of the Gentleman's Agreement to allow it to better market low-tar, low-nicotine products.[3]

A 1980 cover letter from Robert B. Seligman, Vice President of R&D at Philip Morris, is accompanied by two attachments, the first entitled,"Potential Long-Term Scientific Studies" and the next, "a list of three subjects which I [Seligman] feel should be avoided." One of the areas Seligman felt was suitable for study was "the positive effects of smoking," but the areas he said should be avoided included "Developing new tests for carcinogenicity," and any "attempt to relate human disease to smoking."[4][5][6]

A 1981 report by Frank Gerhardt Colby of R.J. Reynolds states that "Information was obtained that Philip Morris-U.S.A. does not live up to the alleged 'gentlemen's agreement' of not having animal laboratory facilities on their premises in this country. PM indeed has had such facilities for at least 3 - 4 years and continues to operate them. This information was communicated to all concerned."[7]

In a 2002 deposition, ex-Philip Morris scientist William Anthony Farone stated, "I was told by my colleagues and superiors that there was an agreement with other tobacco manufacturers that none would conduct biological research internally on as-sold commercial products." Dr. Seligman was Dr. Farone's superior. [8]

Related Sourcwatch resources

External resources

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  1. Morton Mintz Pact Barring Cancer Study Disclosed Washington Post, May 21, 1988
  2. Helmut Wakeham, Philip Morris Untitled Memorandum. November 12, 1968. Lorillard Bates No. 85868118/8121
  3. British-American Tobacco Company and the "Gentleman's Agreement" 2 pages. April 26, 1976. Bates No. 301040646/0647
  4. Robert B. Seligman, Philip Morris No title Cover letter. 1 page. March 31, 1980. Bates No. 2076703654
  5. DPW Potential Long Term Scientific Studies List. 1 page. March, 1980. Philip Morris Bates No. 2076703655
  6. DPW Subjects to be Avoided List. 1 page. March, 1980. Bates No.2076703656
  7. F.G. Colby, R.J. Reynolds RE: Weekly Highlights Memo. 1 page. December 9, 1981. Bates No.501626469
  8. Deposition of WILLIAM ANTHONY FARONE, Ph.D., April 3, 2002, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. PHILIP MORRIS USA INC. April 3, 2002, 153 pp. Bates No. FARONEW040302. DATTA collection.