Stewart Fist, journalist, columnist and film-maker.
HOMES FOR THE
ETHICS & MORALITY
GROWING OLD & GRUMPY
American Council on Science & Health
This was a vocal anti-smoking organisation ... but don't let that fool you.
Elizabeth ('Beth') Whelan (nee Murphy) ran a number of major lobbying operations for the food-processing and chemical industries in partnership with her old teacher from the Harvard School of Public Health, Professor Frederick Stare, who ran his own Department of Nutrition, under a Harvard University franchise arrangement. Elizabeth Whelan was always the key figure and spokeswoman for these organisations, with Stare staying out of sight as much as possible.
Whelan had complex business partnerships which involved her lawyer husband, Stephen T. Whelan who was also a director of the Atlantic Legal Foundation, Inc. which did major work for Dow Pharmaceuticals.
Elizabeth Whelan established her credentials as a celebrity public health advocate in the days when the chemical/food industries and the tobacco industry were at loggerheads. Each blaming the other for the increased rate of cardio-vascular disease in the American population, and she took a leading position in condemning cigarettes. She probably holds these views genuinely: even when the chemical and tobacco industries decided to collaborate against the EPA, she remained a fierce critic of smoking.
It is largely an illusion, however. Her activities on behalf of the food-processing and chemical manufacturers are often quite integrated into the giant tobacco conglomerates, and the protection she affords them and the disinformation she promotes might now be worse than tobacco. Her partner, Fred Stare, was also a tobacco tout.
Stare, Hockett and the Sugar Association
Stare himself worked for most of his life as a consultant to the sugar industry, and also for Kellogs and other processed breakfast foods giants who sold highly sweetened cereals. The big food companies jointly endowed his chair and they appear to have funded the Nutrition Department at the HSPH in many ways.
Stare regularly had long diet advice columns in the various major American magazines where he maintained that a piece of candy was the ideal way to control diet (in children and adults) since it dulls the appetite.
See also : https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/ynbb0015
also - https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/ntxm0215
His students gained generous grants from the confectionary industry to do research showing that indulgence in such pleasure products was good for human health and the American economy. But Stare was such an enthusiastic promoter of sweetened soft-drinks and breakfast cereals that he became known as "Mr Sugar" among Harvard students.
"Sensible people used sweets as a way to stimulate their flagging energy in the afternoon," he said, and "indulgence decreased the harmful effects of stress, particularly on the heart"
The ARISE group (Associates for Research Into Substances of Enjoyment) [See ARISE here] also copied and promoted this stress-relief line, but for nicotine.
Harvard School of Public Health
The general public doesn't differentiate Harvard University from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) which is operated as a franchise paying annual fees to the University for the use of the "Harvard" name. Departments within HSPH also operate their divisions autonomously with only minimal financial and ethical supervision. Stare's Nutrition Department, and the infamous Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) run by Professor John D Graham, are two which exist only because they are heavily funded by various industries with vested interests.
Stare himself only had credentials as an animal nutritionist from some mid-west agricultural college. However, the US government needed nutritional advice on how to feed their troops during the Vietnam War, and so Stare transferred to the East Coast and ended up at Harvard.
The ACSH, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Chemical Industry
The tobacco industry hated Elizabeth Whelan with a passion, but they couldn't openly attack her extensive lobbying business with the pharmaceuticals, food and chemical industries without the risk of opening up Fred Stare's activities as a promoter of Seltzer to public scrutiny.
Elizabeth Whelan and her Professor/teacher Frederick J Stare had formed a bond and a formal business partnership while she was still a post-graduate working within his Nutrition Department. This became a very profitable business in the early days because they produced a series of very successful radio program on nutrition, diet, food and health. They then capitalised on their celebrity status with a series of books (Her "Panic in the Pantry" was a best-seller).
What kept them on the air were the advertisers, and they vigorously attacked all sorts of food-activism; discounting claims of pesticide poisoning, and rejecting any suggestion that processed food could be contaminated by preservatives and other chemical substances.
The whole world was polarised on these matters following the Vietnam War's dioxin problem with Agent Orange, followed by the over-reaction of having fluoride in the water, and then the ban on DDT (which was justified, except that much of the malaria world had no alternative).
The activist objections to fluoride were more against the public's rights to determine their own medications, especially since fluoride was only intended to cure tooth decay. The out-cry was more a reflection of the growing realisation that chemical companies and health authorities often couldn't be trusted to do their homework, and that politicians often promoted ideas clearly not in the public interest.
[Note: It is important to stress that a large part of this reaction against activism would have been justified -- the problem is in knowing which part.]
Most of these attitudes and actions were mirrored in Australia and other countries.
American Industrial Health Council (AIHC)
Chemicals in the Environment
In October 1979, Joseph Califano, the US head of HEW (Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, later renamed Health and Human Services) made a public speech where he suggested that the contribution to the nation's cancer burden from occupational exposures to chemicals was about 30%. Until then, (except for lung) cancers had been seen as mainly a combination of genetic factors and smoking, but now the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) was being urged by the government administration to become pro-active in banning smoking in the workplace. The activists also objected to artificial building and furnishing material which gave off noxious fumes.
|Documents in UCSF archive|
|Carl Seltzer - 26,007|
Philip Burch - 8,615
Stare - 35,122
Whelan - 17,701
Two weeks after the speech the American Industrial Health Council (AIHC) was formed with Elizabeth Whelan employed as its CEO and spokesperson. [She puts the date as "early 1977"].
AIHC ??????ACSH represented 119 member companies and 66 trade groups, and it has since admitted that it was formed solely to offer a "coordinated, constructive" response to OSHA's proposed cancer policy. At the initial press conference the Califano claim, was termed "exaggerated speculation" and the HEW's study was rebutted as a "poor paper based on inflated estimates of the population at risk, and erroneous assumptions in statistics and epidemiology".
The chemical industry, as with other industries like asbestos mining, had an interest in attacking cigarette smoking in order to deflect attention from their own products. Whelan, who was certainly a genuine anti-smoker, made the harmfulness of cigarette smoke as her main message.
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