Stewart Fist, journalist, columnist and film-maker.
HOMES FOR THE
ETHICS & MORALITY
GROWING OLD & GRUMPY
Seltzer and Stare
Fred Stare, the business partner of the anti-smoking lobbyist Elizabeth Whelan,[See seperate file] ran a private behind-the-scenes agency operation for a group of 'Harvard scientists' who needed cover and a way to collect below-the-counter payments. His most profitable scientific lobbyist, Dr Carl Coleman Seltzer, worked for the tobacco industry. For the best part of his life Stare provided the cover which allowed Seltzer to be promoted by tobacco's PR companies as an independent "Harvard professor from the School of Public Health; a heart specialist, who didn't believe that smoking was a serious risk". It has been calculated that Seltzer earned over $2 million dollars from his cigarette-promoting activities over 40 years (from 1954) which, with Stare skimming off one-tenth would give Fred a healthy $200,000.
Stare and Hockett deals
Seltzer, as the "Prominent American Cardiologist" became one of the main industry disinformations consultants around the world. He did this by very actively promoting a theory known as the Constitutional Hypothesis. His main line of propaganda was to insist that heart-disease was always an inherited condition, it was part of the DNA, and therefore nicotine and the tar components in tobacco smoke had no adverse health consequences.
The main Australian tobacco industry lobbyist, Andrew Whist, (head of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris Australia), had begun bidding for a Seltzer visit in 1977, but he was in so much demand by other national cigarette industries that it took two years for him to arrive. He was well celebrated in Australia.
The Australian and the Canberra Times reported on his visit in May 2 1979: he was trotted around to all the state newspapers and radio talk shows, and he appeared at press-conferences enveloped in a cloud of cigarette smoke; he became the most celebrated of a conga-line of corrupt American scientists who were trotted out to Australia regularly to try to stem the anti-smoking activism that gave us a reputation around the medical world.
"The so-called world-famous cardiologist and professor at Harvard, Carl Seltzer, was actually second-rate physical anthropologist. No one told the media that he was a cardiologist ... the journalists just assumed this because he had the title of "Dr", and he was from Harvard and talked about heart disease.
He became a consultant lobbyist to the tobacco industry while still a very old, mature-age graduate student at Harvard's Peabody Museum. He mainly worked for government departments as a specialist in Indian tribal boundaries, however, when he reached Harvard's compulsory retirement age, the industry arranged a transfer to the Harvard School of Public Health where he was able to operate under the cover of Stare's Nutrition Department.
Dr Robert C Hockett, the Scientific Director of the Tobacco Industry Research Center (aka Center for Tobacco Research) had previously been Scientific Director for the Sugar Research Foundation, which was funded by processors, growers and refiners of beet and cane sugar to study the "uses and possible uses of sugar in foods, in beverages, in industry and otherwise." A recipient of one of their regular grants was Fred Stare; so the two knew each other well. This may have been how Seltzer came to the notice of the cigarette companies in the first place.
Seltzer gained his "heart-specialist" credentials simply through writing articles and scientific reports attacking the concept that smoking caused heart disease. He rigidly resisted commenting on lung-cancer saying simply that "this is not my speciality." ... thereby leaving the impression that hearts WERE. His articles were also mailed on Harvard University letterhead (which both Peabody and the HSPH had the right to use) and this illustrious name was almost a guarantee of quality to most editors.
His honorary title of 'Professor' was awarded by an arrangement made through Stare's old associate Jean Mayer who was now President of the nearby Tufts University. The arrangement called upon Seltzer being lent as occasional visiting lecturer in nutrition.
Seltzer always (quite correctly) claimed to be an "independent scientist" who had "never taken a penny from the tobacco industry" (just from its lawyers!). But he never received a penny from Harvard University or the Harvard School of Public Health either; in fact he was tithed by Fred Stare and required to pay part of his income to retain his "honorary research associate" position in the Nutrition Department. He may have been paid for occasional lectures from Tufts University, but even this is doubtful.
Initially, when he was at the Peabody Museum as a lowly Indian tribal boundary specialist (under a US Department of Interior grant), the Tobacco Institute had paid Seltzer via standard secret Special Account #4 held by the Kansas City tobacco lawyers, Shook, Hardy & Bacon and/or by its subsidiary partnership of Jacob and Medinger (later Jacob Medinger & Finnegan). However, when he transferred over to the HSPH Nutrition Department, Stare began charging him 10% of his tobacco industry payments. This doesn't appear to have bothered him; it was probably a standard HSPH fee for these services.
Seltzer's whole lobbying career was as a very important international travelling salesman-for-doubt about smoking and heart-attacks. He travelled widely under tobacco patronage, wrote learned articles profusely, and had a you-scratch-my-back/peer-review type arrangement with Professor Philip RJ Burch, a well-known statistician from Leeds University in the UK who was also a major recipient of industry largesse for proclaiming the constitutional hypothesis.
The Value of Knowing Your Peers
Seltzer and his wife Ruth stay with the Jane and Philip Burch most years over Christmas; alternately they came to Boston to stay withthe Seltzers. The two men exchanged friendly correspondence on the progress of Burch's two sons and a daughter through Cambridge university, and they wrote many joint papers and peer-reviewed each others' work when it got published. Burch was also a friend of Frederick Stare, which is probably how they came to meet and collaborate.
In 1986 they were collaborating in a major industry attack on two of the Environmental Protection Agency's best scientists, James L Repace and Alfred H Lowery who had done a meta-analysis of 76 reports, and concluded that second-hand smoke was harmful to non-smokers. This woke the industry up to the fact that ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke - or second-hand smoke) was even more of a threat to the industry than the primary smoke which killed smokers.The smokers, at least, smoked by choice (if you ignored 'addiction').
Burch was also involved in an attack on some related articles in the Medical Journal of Australia -- and he mentioned Seltzer and Johnstone as two credible scientists in support of his constitutional-only position. J Ray Johnstone, was deputy to John Hyde with the Australian Institute of Public Policy (AIPP) which was then housed at the West Australian University. At about this time Johnstone, Hyde, Ulyatt and Nahan were about to move over to run the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne.
Seltzer stayed with the HSPH until Stare retired in 1986 - then returned to Peabody Museum to be paid through a Dr. Irving DeVore. He'd been born in 1908 and was still getting free shipments of cigarettes in 1999 ... all the while defending his Constitutional Inheritance claims that cardio-vascular diseases and lung-cancer were inherited conditions that had nothing to do with life-style or addictive practices. He died in August 2003 at the age of 95 ... and with the amount he smoked, his constitution must have had direct inheritance from an ox.
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