LEXINGTON, Ky.—Tobacco industry critic Jeffrey Wigand, speaking at
Transylvania University on Tuesday, March 3, on the topic “Insider’s
View of the Tobacco Industry,” made the case for federal regulation of
tobacco products while recounting his experiences as a former executive
at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation who went public with
inside information on that company’s research and marketing practices.
Wigand, vice president for research and development at Brown &
Williamson from 1988-93, decided to violate his confidentiality
agreement with his former employer in 1995 and reveal information on
the company’s research involving nicotine content and its effects on
addictiveness in smokers.
He was subsequently the subject of a CBS 60 Minutes expose and a 1999 Hollywood movie titled The Insider that
depicted his story as a corporate whistler-blower and as a key witness
in a multi-state trial that resulted in Kentucky and 39 other states
getting tobacco settlement money.
“Federal regulation should compel tobacco companies to disclose all the
additives in their products,” Wigand said. “Smokers should have the
same level of knowledge the industry itself has. I have no problem with
adult smokers who assume the risk, provided they do it with informed
Wigand joined Brown & Williamson with the goal of developing a less
hazardous cigarette and devising the testing protocol that would allow
the company to make this claim in its advertising campaigns. He accused
the company of thwarting this purpose and misrepresenting the facts of
his research and findings.
Ultimately, Wigand came to believe that breaking his confidentiality
agreement about these matters after leaving the company was a moral
“There was a higher level of loyalty involved, and that was loyalty to
the truth,” he said. “I followed my moral compass. I continue doing
what I believe is right, regardless of the consequences.”
Wigand now spends his time as an expert witness and consultant on
tobacco issues, giving lectures around the world, and supporting his
non-profit organization, Smoke-Free Kids, Inc. He said he spends 182
days a year talking with elementary and middle school students about
making good decisions regarding tobacco use.
He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the School of Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences at the State University of New York Buffalo. Before
joining Brown & Williamson, he held senior management positions
with several leading healthcare companies, including Johnson &
Johnson and Pfizer.
Wigand appeared at Transylvania as part of psychology professor Meg
Upchurch’s Bingham-Young Professorship titled Drugged America, which
looks at the impact of drugs on American society.