Tues AM: Wells v. Benowitz on Addiction

November 2, 2004 12:15 pm by Gene Borio

Philip Morris Attorney Ted Wells is cross examining Dr. Neal Benowitz on the use of the term “addiction” in the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction.:” Benowitz was a senior scientific editor of the report.

Mr. Wells is making the case that the report was politically motivated by an anti-smoking Surgeon General Koop, who with Office of Smoking and Health head Ron Davis, senior editors Neal Grunberg, Harry Lando and Jack Henningfield, predetermined that the term to be used for the effects of nicotine on humans would be changed from “dependence” to “addiction.” Wells has brought out documents indicating the criteria for determining this was developed after it was decided to use the term.

5 Responses to “Tues AM: Wells v. Benowitz on Addiction”

  1. Archie Anderson Says:

    There should be a Correction made here: when the The office of smoking and health decided to politicise the 64 SG Terrys report the correct change was from “habituation” to “addiction” an very huge difference than “dependence” to “addiction”
    :habit def a constant,often unconscious inclination to perform an act, aquired through its frequent repetition.

    Addiction: needs no definition, eating the same brand of candy bar and taking the same route to work every day is NOT addiction.
    Thanks Gene

  2. tobacco observer Says:

    Addiction: needs no definition, eating the same brand of candy bar and taking the same route to work every day is NOT addiction.
    Thanks Gene

    While I agree that eating the same candy bar every day(hopefully) doesn’t constitute “addiction”, respectfully, I beg to differ with your premise!

    A major issue at stake at trial is the definition of “addiction” and how that definition may have changed over time, particularly in the context of the ‘88 SG report. Glossing over that definition is disingenuous.

    “Habituation” “Addiction” and “Dependence” are all related, but substantively different concepts. The exact meanings of these terms are not obvious, and are not simply a matter of semantics. For example, for decades, the definition of addiction required mood alteration. If a particular drug didn’t make you “high” then by definition, it wasn’t “addictive”. Under that definition, tobacco could be accurately said not to be addictive. On the other hand a more recent definition of addiction only requires self-administration by lab animals. At that point, not only is tobacco addictive, but caffiene (ie coffee) is too.

    Just to point out the thorniness of these issues, there is still, to this day, not a good scientific consensus on whether or not chocolate, sugar, or even marijuana are “addictive”.

    The point is the DOJ has accused tobacco of deceptive behavior with respect to their claims on addiction. Precise and era-appropriate definitions are required to properly evaluate those claims in context.

  3. krueger Says:

    Let’s see, where have I heard this before?

    James Morgan, Philip Morris CEO: “If they [cigarettes] are behaviorally addictive or habit forming, they are much more like caffeine, or, in my case, Gummi Bears.”

    Philip Morris: “smoking is addictive as that term is commonly used today.”

    Imperial Tobacco: “We agree that smoking can be characterised as addictive, as the term is commonly used today”

    R. J. Reynolds: “many people believe smoking is addictive, and as that term is commonly used today, it is.”

    The industry’s public story evolved from blanket denial (it’s not addictive, nicotine is in there for taste) to minimizing (it’s addictive like coffee) to word games (the meaning has changed).

    But what the industry said in private was very different:

    Addison Yeaman, Brown & Williamson General Counsel, July 17, 1963, private industry memo: “Nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug”.

    Perhaps 1963 is “era-appropriate” for 1964.

    The problem for the industry isn’t whether anyone else’s definition has changed. The problem for the industry is that privately it said nicotine was addictive but publicly it denied, delayed, obfuscated, and played word games.

    The problem for the industry isn’t how one defines addiction. The problem for the industry is how it harnessed and engineered addiction, and misled the public, the Congress, and the courts about that.

    And the problem for the industry is how long and deep this deception has been going on.

    If the industry had come clean at the time, told the public what it knew when it knew it on smoking, nicotine, and addiction, and what it was doing to engineer its product
    for engineering, it wouldn’t be on trial right now.

  4. norbert hirschhorn Says:

    As I read current public statements by Philip Morris (inserts and onserts), it is said that “cigarette smoking” is addictive, which — parsing carefully — is not the same as saying nicotine is the addictive agent in tobacco.


  5. krueger Says:

    Yes, Philip Morris almost always says that “smoking” is addictive. It almost never says that the product is addictive.

    Now, is there some other way the customer could use the product so that it isn’t addictive? Of course not. Used as designed, used the only way it can be used, the product is addictive.

    So you might observe: if the product is inherently addictive, then it’s as reasonable to say the product is addictive as to say using it is addictive. But you hardly ever hear Philip Morris say the product is addictive.

    My guess on the PR design: blame the customer, shift the blame, shift the focus.

    “Smoking” names a behavior, attributes the problem to the customer. It shifts focus to what the customer did, and away from what Philip Morris does.

    Interestingly, Philip Morris uses “addiction” about as often as “addictive”. “Addiction” also points to the customer and away from the product. It’s the customer’s addiction, not addictive product.

    So Philip Morris seldom talks about addictive product.

    What Philip Morris never talks about: how it engineers the product for addiction. How it is no accident that the product is highly addictive. How the tobacco industry for 40 years has viewed itself as being in the drug business. My guess is, the PR design is exactly to get the focus away from this.

Leave a Reply

The primary purpose of this site is to provide information in a timely manner. Postings should be informative. The usual rules apply: No libel, no profanity, no personal abuse, keep it on topic, and short.

If you are scheduled as a court witness, CHECK with your lawyer before posting anything here!