The state of knowledge regarding tobacco harm, 1920-1964: industry and public health service perspectives
Referencing once-confidential tobacco industry documents, we compare reviews of the epidemiological literature concerning tobacco harm that were carried out by the U.S. Tobacco Industry Research Committee (T.I.R.C.) and the U.S. Public Health Service and related groups during the 1950s and early 1960s. Results show that the T.I.R.C. operated an unbiased and reasonably comprehensive literature review operation which, from 1956 onwards, was providing summaries of published epidemiological studies to its members within an average of 2.3 months of date of publication. Although the epidemiological evidence reviewed by the T.I.R.C. was similar to that reviewed by the U.S. Public Health Service and related groups, public statements assessing the evidence made by the organisations differ significantly. We discuss our results in the light of present-day academic and legal debates concerning the ‘controversy’ surrounding tobacco harm in the mid-twentieth century.
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