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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Junk Science

Honoring that great conservative tradition of "what, you think I do this for free?" it turns out science columnist Steven Milloy has been on the payroll of Philip Morris since 2000, curiously the same time he started his job:
On March 9, 2001, he wrote a column for the website headlined "secondhand smokescreen." The piece attacked a study by researcher Stephen Hecht, who found that women living with smokers had higher levels of chemicals associated with risk of lung cancer. "If spin were science, Hecht would win a Nobel Prize," Milloy wrote. For good measure, he heaped scorn on a 1993 Environmental Protection Agency report that also linked health risks and secondhand smoke. Later that spring, he authored another smoking-related piece for In that one, he cast aside two decades of research on the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke and concluded, "Secondhand smoke is annoying to many nonsmokers. That is the essence of the controversy and where the debate should lie--the rights of smokers to smoke in public places versus the rights of nonsmokers to be free of tobacco smoke." You might chalk it up to Milloy's contrarian nature. Or to his libertarian tendencies. Except, all the while, he was on the payroll of big tobacco. According to Lisa Gonzalez, manager of external communications for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, Milloy was under contract there through the end of last year. "In 2000 and 2001, some of the work he did was to monitor studies, and then we would distribute this information within to our different companies," Gonzalez said. Although she couldn't comment on fees paid to Milloy, a January 2001 Philip Morris budget report lists Milloy as a consultant and shows that he was budgeted for $92,500 in fees and expenses in both 2000 and 2001.
I wonder why they suspected him. It never would've occurred to me there was anything weird about a science expert whose health advise is "smoke 'em if you've got 'em."