MON AM: Schindler on RJR’s obligations on public awareness

January 24, 2005 1:38 pm by Gene Borio

Q: In your position at the head of Reynolds, you have always maintained it is your duty to make sure the public is aware of the risks or harms that smoking cigarettes poses?

A: Yes, and we fulfill that by complying with the requirements of federal law and putting the congressionally-mandated warnings on every package of cigarettes we sell and in our advertising.

This quote is from the Corrected Written Direct Testimony of RJR Tobacco Company’s executive chairman Andrew Schindler. Mr. Schindler’s correction in this quote is the line after the “Yes.”

DOJ attorney Sharon Eubanks seized upon Mr. Schindler’s change of answer to grill him on how RJR has, in the past, fulfilled — or failed to fulfill–its duty to make sure the public is aware of the risks or harms that smoking cigarettes poses.

Over the objections of Mr. Schindler’s attorney, RJR’s Bob McDermott, Ms. Eubanks presented documents from 1954 on (Mr. Schindler only arrived at RJR in 1974. “I wasn’t at RJR then,” he said of a 1958 document. “I was just embarking on my high school career.”) that appear to dispute the charges on smoking and health by claiming the evidence is merely “statistical,” by denigrating the mouse-skin painting experiments (”mice shouldn’t use condensed smoke as a shaving lotion”), and by maintaining that there is a genuine controversy–even to schoolchildren seeking health information years after the Surgeon General’s warning was changed from “Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health” to “Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous To Your Health.”

MS EUBANKS: Is that disseminating information to the public–that it was an open question when the Surgeon General said it was dangerous –is that fulfilling the company’s duty?

MR. SCHINDLER: It fulfills our duty by putting the required warning labels on packs.

Mr. Schindler –in his mid 60s, about 5-10, in good shape and handsome, with a full head of silky gray hair–had a touch of civilized Mayberry RFD to him. He had the slightest southern accent–mostly discernible in his o’s (”smewoking”)–and his wavy hair was badly in need of a cut. He was quite genial at first, and would even get charmingly confused at times, trying his best to be agreeable. But don’t let his light, aw-shucks manner and Johnny Carson-like good-natured responses fool you. He always read ahead and around each document handed to him, and could quickly quote areas that didn’t seem to fit with Ms. Eubanks’ characterization of the document. And by the lunch break, his folksy gentility appeared to be slipping, the corners of his mouth were turned down and he seemed to be getting fairly peeved with Ms. Eubanks’ line of questioning.

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!