Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Blowing the whistle on Big Tobacco

About the movie
Addiction Incorporated
MPAA rating:
for thematic material involving smoking and addiction, and for some language
Running time:
Release date:
Directed by:
Charles Evans Jr.

This dilatory documentary, Addiction Incorporated, chronicles the battle against Big Tobacco, an industry that just a couple of decades ago was considered invincible.

The film's Galahad is Victor DeNoble, who was recruited from academia by Philip Morris for drug research. His mandate was to use lab rats to find a nicotine replacement that was just as addictive, but less damaging to the human heart.

DeNoble made some real breakthroughs, for example, identifying a chemical in tobacco, acetaldehyde, that amplified nicotine's addictive power considerably.

Then, lawsuits against the tobacco companies started cropping up in the '80s and it was realized that DeNoble's work made the case that cigarettes are nothing more than a drug-delivery system.

With no warning, Philip Morris' bright light was told (in his own words), "Go downstairs and kill your rats. Turn in your keys. You're fired."

DeNoble would go on to testify before Congress, where he was acclaimed as one of the first "whistle-blowers," and later as an expert in the first large-scale class action suit brought against the cigarette manufacturers.

You have to admire the craft of  this film, its extraordinary assemblage of stock and newsreel footage, hearings, and even illustrations. And the roster of talking heads it corralled for interviews is quite impressive: lawyers, scientists, reporters, government officials, even tobacco executives.

But while its thoroughness is laudable, its pacing is deadly. And the events and attitudes depicted already have become curiously passe in less than a decade. Not that the scourge of tobacco has been eradicated, but this chapter seems curiously remote, like watching footage of passengers on an airplane lighting up and blowing plumes of smoke in the cabin.

Contact television writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552,, or @daveondemand_tv on Twitter. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at

Inquirer Staff Writer
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
Latest Videos:
Also on
letter icon Newsletter