Doubt is an interesting thing. For decades, the tobacco industry was able to sell, unmolested, a product that kills people. But because it does not do it instantly, it is possible to raise doubt as to the exact causation.
And the tobacco industry successfully was able to turn aside lawsuits attempting to make it accountable for the untold millions of smokers who became addicted to their very carefully constructed product and would later die of some form of lung disease.
Both the chemical composition, with tobacco optimized for the addictive substance, nicotine, and the exquisite public relations campaign, which ranged from using doctors as proponents of some brands to the creation of the iconic western cowboy, were defended by a relentless legal attack on anyone attempting to link cigarette smoking and cancer.
But it was all smoke and mirrors. The cigarette companies “‘knew there was a consensus in the scientific community that smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases’ by at least January 1964,” and they engaged in a well-orchestrated effort to “mislead” the public as to the dangers of smoking.
What does this have to do with asbestos? One reason why the asbestos-defense industry remains focused on greatly exaggerated concerns of asbestos victims actually securing compensation for some claims from the asbestos trust funds is that it manufactures doubt and clouds the discussion, taking it away from what could be an equally massive problem.
Next time, we will look at how that doubt distracts from the significant problem asbestos still poses to the population within the U.S. and how aggressive legal strategies by the insurance companies that defend the asbestos industry threaten the health of millions.
Thedailybeast.com, “Meet the Merchants of Doubt: The PR Firms Giving You Cancer, Causing Acid Rain and Killing the Planet,” Lewis Beale, March 3, 2015