Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Tobacco lawyers still anger former FDA head

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — David Kessler — who as head of the Food and Drug Administration waged an eight-year battle against Big Tobacco — still harbors resentment for industry attorneys who protected the dangerous product.

        For years, tobacco attorneys successfully created “a wedge of doubt” about nicotine's addictive qualities and the connection between smoking and cancer, Mr. Kessler told a crowd Monday night at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

        “They ran the show. They permitted this to happen for 50 years,” Mr. Kessler said. His book, A Question of Intent, was the subject of a Kentucky Author Forum at the center.

        In his book, Mr. Kessler detailed the process that uncovered how industry scientists knew nicotine was addictive and that smoking was harmful.

        As FDA commissioner, Mr. Kessler is credited with persuading President Clinton to allow tobacco to be regulated as a drug. The U.S. Supreme Court later refused FDA rules to do so, but the battle put the tobacco industry on the defensive.

        He said that a Philip Morris vice president once told him privately that the company would like to spin off its cigarette business but can't because of the liability question. Philip Morris had no comment to the allegation, said spokeswoman Peggy Roberts.


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