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BBC Newsnight Transcript, 9/20/06

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(Visual: Cigarette Ad)

Tobacco Advertisement: Gold Leaf are made of the finest Virginia Tobacco in the world

Narration: We’ve been here before. A few decades ago the tobacco companies could blithely create the impression that cigarettes were good for you.

Tobacco Advertisement: Thayer’s Gold Leaf are really worth smoking.

(Visual: Tobacco Company CEO Hearings, 1994)

Narration: For a long time the bosses of the tobacco firms stuck to their claim that cigarettes did not cause cancer and weren’t addictive.

Questioner: Do you believe nicotine is not addictive?

CEO: I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.

Questioner: Mr. Johnson.

Johnson: I believe nicotine is not addictive.

CEO 2: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

(Visual: Anti-Smoking Campaign Ad)

Ad: We have to sell cigarettes to your kids….

Narrator: But as the scientific evidence mounted up they started using lobbyists to cast doubt on it. Much as Exxon has been funding people who maintain that man-made climate change won’t cause a serious harm. But the connection doesn’t end there.

Ad: The tobacco industry…how low will they go to make a profit?

(Visual: Narrator at his desk, documents)

Narrator: I’ve discovered there is a direct link between the tobacco companies and the claim that climate change isn’t happening. Searching through their archives, I’ve found that Philip Morris was one of the first organizations to throw a smokescreen over global warming. Why? Well, the documents that I’ve found show that in 1993, Philip Morris’ public relations company advised that a so-called grassroots coalition should be set up to cast doubt on studies showing that second-hand tobacco smoke is dangerous for health. In order not to incite suspicion that Philip Morris had funded this coalition, they suggested that it should “link the tobacco issue with other more politically correct products” and campaign on issues like global warming. The organization Philip Morris set up became one of the major organizations casting doubt on climate change. It was called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. It later took $30,000 from Exxon. Some of the invented scientific research this group circulated, such as the idea that large numbers of glaciers are growing, has been cited by Melanie Philips.

(Visual: Interview with Melanie Philips)

Melanie Phillips: There are people who say that the majority of the glaciers are not retreating. The majority of the ice at the poles is actually not retreating, it’s a complex picture. Some of it is retreating, some of it is increasing.

(Visual: Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Carbon Dioxide Ad)

CEI Ad: Why are they trying to scare us?

Narrator: The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which made those videos, has also received at least $125,000 from the tobacco firm Philip Morris.

CEI Ad: We call it life

(Visual: Interview with Julian Morris)

Narrator: Some British groups have also taken money from both tobacco companies and oil companies. Julian Morris runs the International Policy Network which he admits has received at least 157,000 pounds from Exxon and 10,000 pounds from a tobacco firm. His group lobbies against major cuts in greenhouse gasses. I asked him whether he was simply doing the bidding of his funders.

Julian Morris: We develop our own programs. Those programs are independent of and foundation business or individual who might be interested in supporting us. We then go out to potential supporters and say “will you contribute to us”. Those supporters have no oversight over what we do, and do not influence what we say.

Narrator: But if you were taking a position which was hostile to those interests do you think they’d fund you?

Julian Morris: (awkward pause as he gropes for words) Clearly, people who support the International Policy Network believe in what we do.

(Visual: Narrator facing camera)

Narrator: Same lobby groups, same people, same tactics. Is there any significant difference between the corporate campaigns that cast doubt on the dangers of tobacco smoke and the campaigns that cast doubt on the dangers of climate change?