Ex-tobacco company researcher speaks at Thoracic conference Work with rats suggests nicotine is addictive, he says

March 10, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Dr. Victor DeNoble is still a cautious man.

Although it has been almost three years since the former Philip Morris Cos. researcher testified against the company before a congressional subcommittee about the effects of nicotine, DeNoble says the tobacco titan would still like to have his head.

"Philip Morris is still trying to discredit me," DeNoble said yesterday after speaking to a group of health care professionals at a Baltimore hotel about his tenure with the world's largest tobacco company. "But you can't argue with truthful documentation -- and they've never even tried to refute the research or their conclusions."

DeNoble, who worked at the company's laboratory in Richmond, Va., from 1980 to 1984, presented research to members the Maryland Thoracic Society at the group's 37th annual meeting yesterday.

His research, he said, showed that laboratory rats would give themselves high-level doses of nicotine every day for months -- even years -- at a time, repeatedly pressing a lever that administered the substance directly into their brains.

What's more, DeNoble said, Philip Morris executives knew for years that nicotine was addictive. Philip Morris officials have said repeatedly that this is untrue.

After DeNoble presented his findings to a panel of Philip Morris executives in 1983, the company's attorneys reviewed his paper and "took out everything that used the words 'drug and addiction' in relation to tobacco," he said. "So I basically ended up publishing a paper that said rats like nicotine."

Philip Morris has steadfastly denied that it suppressed DeNoble's research findings.

DeNoble says Philip Morris officials abruptly cut off his research in November 1984, closed his lavishly funded laboratory and destroyed the animals.

Four months later, he was fired. He then worked for a number of pharmaceutical companies. In 1994, he was called to testify before a congressional subcommittee about how addictive nicotine is.

DeNoble, now a behavior analyst for Delaware's Department of Mental Retardation, says his research was suppressed after Philip Morris executives learned that it could be used against the company.

The irony of the situation, he says, is that he is not necessarily against smoking.

"I continue to speak about this because people should think whether the [tobacco] industry needs to be regulated," he said. "We should be asking about corporate responsibility."

Justice Department officials have said they may bring charges against tobacco executives from Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. who may have perjured themselves in their 1994 congressional testimony.

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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