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Lawmaker: Tobacco Study Targeted Third-Graders

July 25, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Tobacco giant Philip Morris tracked Virginia third-graders as potential future customers and gave electric shocks to college students to see if the resulting anxiety would make them smoke more, a congressman charges.

Research documents also show the world’s largest tobacco company found hungry smokers crave nicotine more than food, and considered the chemical addictive a decade before the surgeon general did, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said Monday.

Waxman, who uncovered the records during a congressional investigation, submitted the documents for publication today in the Congressional Record. He read aloud portions of the dozens of records on the House floor.

``These documents make it crystal clear that we need regulation of tobacco to protect our children from becoming addicted to a life-threatening drug,″ said Waxman, ranking Democrat on the health subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee. ``I hope they will dissuade members of this body (Congress) from any legislative effort to block that regulation.″

The Food and Drug Administration and the White House are discussing ways to curb childhood smoking, including banning cigarette vending machines and advertising attractive to children. Tobacco-state lawmakers are mobilizing to block such regulation, but did not immediately react to Waxman’s statements.

Philip Morris officials refused to discuss Waxman’s charges, saying they hadn’t seen the documents. But, ``Philip Morris has always said that it studied why people smoke,″ the company said in a statement. ``Nicotine, which is an important component of the taste and flavor of cigarettes, is believed to be one of many reasons.″

According to documents Waxman cited:

_Philip Morris scientists began a study on hyperactive children as ``prospective smokers″ by tracking third-graders in Chesterfield County, Va., in 1974. The goal was to see if they later smoked as teen-agers as a way to calm down without prescription medication.

Researchers wrote that they hoped ultimately to track 60,000 elementary school children, and in 1977 enlisted pediatricians who treated hyperactive children. Company scientists wrote that ``it would be good to show that smoking is an advantage to at least one subgroup of the population,″ Waxman read.

The study ended in 1978 when school officials declared access to students’ school and medical records violated their privacy, the company records said.

_A series of studies titled ``Shock I-V″ administered electric shocks to college students, beginning in 1969, to see if student smoking increased under stressful conditions. The study ended in 1972 because ``fear of shock is scaring away some of our more valuable subjects,″ researchers wrote.

_In 1977, the company wrote that it had reached an agreement with a university hospital to inject nicotine into people to measure their reactions, particularly brain waves. It was unclear whether those studies actually took place.

_In 1976, college students were given low-nicotine cigarettes to see whether they smoked differently, by inhaling more deeply and holding the smoke longer, to compensate for the lack of nicotine.

Philip Morris chief William Campbell testified before Congress last year that tobacco is not addictive.

But Waxman said the documents prove the company knew that nicotine is addictive a decade before the surgeon general made that declaration. He read a 1969 company report for Philip Morris’ board of directors that concluded smokers need the ``pharmacological effect″ of tobacco.

Company scientists wrote that the craving was so great, it ``pre-empts food in times of scarcity on the smoker’s priority list.″

And in 1974, Philip Morris executive Thomas Osdene wrote that stopping smoking produces ``reactions not unlike those to be observed upon withdrawal of any number of habituating pharmacologic agents,″ Waxman said.

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