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Addiction Incorporated (2011)
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Charles Evans Jr.
In 1980, a young scientist named Victor DeNoble was hired by a major tobacco company. Fourteen years later, he was testifying in front of Congress that, despite the sworn testimony of the industry's chief executives, nicotine was addictive... and the research he did could prove it. "Addiction Incorporated" tells the incredible true story of how one of the most important whistleblowers of our time dropped a bombshell on one of America's most powerful industries- a bombshell that still reverberates today. If you think you know the story, if you think you know the science, and if you think you know Big Tobacco's next steps, this incendiary documentary will prove you wrong on all counts.
Addiction Incorporated (2011) | Preview
Charles, how did you come across Dr. DeNoble's story?
Evans: I first came across Victor's story when the rest of the world learned about him, when he appeared before Congressman Waxman's subcommittee, and I followed up personally with him to know more about it. He interested me very much with his bright-eyed enthusiasm and idealism, and his commitment to do good with science really struck me as a beautiful thing. We continued a relationship and I resolved to make a movie that brought this to light. As a result the tobacco industry became a big part of that story.
Was the tobacco industry an interest for you going in?
Evans: I had never considered it before. The emotional part of the film for me is one man's determination to do good. I wanted to provide an example for people to see, to feel, to find Victor in themselves—the do-gooder in themselves. The tobacco industry was just a way to tell that story.
Dr. DeNoble, as I recall from the film, you took the job thinking the company was trying to find a way to make cigarettes safer. When did you discover they may not have really cared about that?
DeNoble: About three years in. What happened was, I do believe that the scientists there did want to make a better product. We were moving in that direction. We actually found a substitute for nicotine, one that didn't have as much cardio-vascular risk. We actually designed a cigarette to deliver this analog to a person. Somewhere in there we also made a startling discovery. The discovery was we found a second drug in cigarette smoke that also causes addiction. It wasn't just nicotine. The company came to us and said, "What does that really mean?" You know, we're scientists. It means there are two things in there, they interact in the brain. "How do they interact?" So we did a couple experiments. What we found was that this second molecule increased the addictiveness of nicotine in the brain. So the company made a decision. They decided do we try to help people and save lives or try to addict more people and get profit? They chose the profit. That's when they began to suppress our work. They began to suppress our publications. We weren't allowed to publish anything. We weren't allowed to talk about the research. In fact, this second molecule that we discovered (it was called acetaldehyde), they didn't even use its name. We had to give it a code name; it was called E44, because they didn't want anybody to know what it was.
Evans: In internal documents
DeNoble: In internal documents. So I went into the company thinking their heart was in the right spot. About three years in we kind of figured out this wasn't going to work.
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