by Malcolm Curtis | The Local, Switzerland | June 8, 2012
Philip Morris, the world’s biggest producer of cigarettes, infiltrated the University of Lausanne as part of a campaign to make smoking “socially acceptable,” according to a Swiss newspaper. Le Matin reports on internal documents of the company, headquartered in Lausanne, showing that a former chairman of the University of Lausanne (UNIL) was used in the 1990s to show tobacco in a favorable light.
The former chairman was an “eminent professor of psychology” covertly used by Philip Morris even as the university announced that it was cutting relations with the tobacco industry for ethical reasons, the newspaper says. Several days after the university announced the policy in the summer of 1992, the pyschology professor signed a letter agreeing to conduct three years of “social engineering” research into the “dynamics of tolerant behaviour” and related issues.
The budget for the research was 377,900 francs, according to the letter cited by Le Matin. Although the letter does not mention Philip Morris, another company document refers to a plan to exploit the “social engineering” research by the professor.
A 1993-1995 plan for the tobacco giant calls on the company to “organise, through third parties (e.g. Institute of Psychology at Lausanne University)” a national or international symposium on such themes as “tolerance, freedom of speech, scientific research and communication, the nanny state, health and lifestyle engineering”.
The research into tolerance meshed with a theme dear to cigarette companies in the 1990s, Le Matin reports. Philip Morris believed that such research, provided it reached the right conclusions, was crucial to support arguments in favour of smoking, according to the newspaper.
It reports that the company’s head of science and technology recommended that the Lausanne professor regularly inform Philip Morris of his progress so the company could guide him in his work. In a document dating from June 1993, the company official noted that the professor was cooperating in a “perfectly open” way.
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