One of the first "whistle-blowers" on nicotine addiction, Dr. Victor J. DeNoble, spoke at Kutztown University on Sept. 16 in Schaeffer Auditorium.Students, faculty and community members attended to hear DeNoble describe how he became one of the first to speak out against the tobacco industry in his fight to make people aware of nicotine addiction.
A research scientist for Philip Morris, DeNoble was assigned to design a nicotine analogue that would retain the drug's addictive qualities while not affecting the function of the heart. Plainly speaking, he was told to design a "safe" cigarette.
While conducting research, he made nicotine available to rats through an intravenous tube. The rats were able to control the amount of nicotine they received by pushing a button.
"Each cigarette gives you 10 shots of nicotine," explained DeNoble.
Within a few days, the rats were voluntarily taking an equivalent of 90 cigarettes per day. After several experiments, including trials on human brains and rat brains, DeNoble concluded that nicotine is addictive.
Since DeNoble discovered nicotine is addictive while making a "safe" cigarette, he was fired from Philip Morris. Before leaving, he proceeded to steal top secret documents from the laboratory. Unfortunately, these four boxes of documents, which DeNoble later gave to a lawyer, were bought by the tobacco company for $2 mil-lion per box.
Ten years later, DeNoble and his wife, who had taken photographic evidence of the boxes, gave him the photos that she still possessed. Because DeNoble had signed a confidentiality document, restricting him from voluntarily dispensing information, he could not go directly to the FBI with the photos. Instead, he sent them an anonymous picture of a rat, with no return address.
Within a few days, the FBI was at his front door asking questions. After refusing to answer any questions, DeNoble was then taken in for further questioning.
In 1994, former President Bill Clinton personally called DeNoble and asked if his story was true. Following the phone call, DeNoble and his wife were taken into secret custody.
Shortly thereafter, DeNoble testified before U.S. Congress against the tobacco industry. He served as a key witness as he testified before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, and former Vice President Al Gore's Tobacco Settlement Committee.
He was also featured on several TV shows such as "60 Minutes," "Dateline NBC" and "Sunday Morning with David Brinkley."
"I have cost the tobacco company $710 billion in fines," DeNoble said with a smile.
Sponsored by the President's Roundtable on Alcohol and Other Drugs and the Office of Health Promotion, the first 100 attendees received free T-shirts.