Academics Take the Stand—for Big Tobacco

Some academics have a secret side hustle testifying for tobacco companies in court, earning hundreds of dollars an hour as expert witnesses on a topic many have never published a word about.

The strategy: Using the “common knowledge” argument that the dangers of smoking were well-known back in the 1950s. Many rely on a 1954 poll known for being taken out of context.

Most are historians, not public health experts—and their testimony would never pass peer review, says Stanford University’s Robert Proctor.

“They erase history by acting as if the things we know today have always been known,” he says.

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