How Big Tobacco Shaped the 'Science Of Stress'
Cigarette companies wanted illness linked to stress, not smoking: expert
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2014 5:04 PM CDT
A woman smokes a cigarette outside of a restaurant in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

(Newser) – A few 20th-century scientists gave birth to the modern notion of stress—and Big Tobacco got so excited that it swooped in and funded their research, NPR reports. It all started with endocrinologist Hens Selye, who in the 1930s subjected rats to stress and cut them open to reveal the negative effects on their inner organs. Then, in the 1950s, two cardiologists created the notion of the Type-A personality, saying high-stress living made people prone to disease and heart attacks. So why Big Tobacco's involvement? It wanted to promote the idea that stress, not tobacco, gave people heart attacks and cancer, according to medical expert Mark Petticrew.

"What's never really been appreciated is that the tobacco industry was a major funder and stimulant of research on stress," says Petticrew. He came to that conclusion after he and his colleagues looked through millions of tobacco-industry documents now available online. He says industry lawyers influenced Selye's later work and emphasized the link between Type A and heart disease (even though most studies have since refuted that). Meanwhile Big Tobacco promoted the notion that cigarettes were a great stress remedy, reports the Daily Beast. Now, years later, we know that Selye wasn't wrong about stress (especially chronic stress in childhood), but other scientists say stress can be a benefit, too. "Stress isn't always a bad thing," notes NPR. (Now see what's happened to all the money tobacco companies coughed up in lawsuits.)

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Showing 3 of 18 comments
Chris Farley
Jul 14, 2014 9:00 AM CDT
And that is the same thing that Big Pharm is doing right now. SSRI's, Anxiety Meds, Meth in the form of medicine and so on.
julianpenrod
Jul 14, 2014 1:00 AM CDT
Yet we are instructed to believe that “science” can never be conniving or corrupt. That all “scientists” are the noblest of individuals who are unable to lie. And, even when “science” is proved to have engaged in deceit, which is happening very frequently, recently, as in the up to 90 percent of articles submitted to biology magazines being found to contain “observations” that cannot be duplicated, and the revelation by the Journal of Vibration and Control that their staff included a literal “ring” of corrupt “peer” ”reviewers” who connive to approve illegitimate papers, “science” has a craven fall back position, also recent. They say that it's not getting things right that establishes “scientific” worth, it's “science's” willingness to admit it was wrong, when it can't hide the fact! In other words, they are saying that their lies can be trusted because, when they can't evade responsibility for their cravenness, they admit it! A cogent point, among others. If the “science” of stress was illegitimate, despite being, for such a long time, defended and elaborated upon, before being discredited, what is the proof that “evolution” isn't a lie, with “fossils” just resin casts; or that “relativity” isn't a lie, with the only “proof” of “relativity's” “truth” being individuals with vested interests in stupid populaces ordering that the imbeciles believe it; or the “proof” that tobacco is bad?
blah-blah-blah
Jul 14, 2014 12:10 AM CDT
JERZJOE saying someone is a genius...defiantly not the pot calling the kettle black. blowhard btw not a smoker