Despite omnipresent health warnings, an estimated 46 million Americans continue to smoke, with many claiming that they just can’t quit. So why it is so hard to kick the deadly habit?
“Addiction Incorporated,” the new documentary by Charles Evans Jr., attempts to answer that question, showing how the tobacco industry sought to deceive the American public for so many years. The film tells the story of scientist Victor DeNoble’s unexpected discovery of an addictive ingredient in tobacco which led to the first ever federal regulation of the tobacco industry in the 1990s.
“Scientists do research with the hope that we will have a positive impact on people’s lives. I thought I would never have that opportunity when I went to work at the Philip Morris Research Center. I never dreamed that our research would be suppressed for over ten years and that it would take a major federal investigation, congressional hearings, and acts of Congress before my hope would be fulfilled,” DeNoble, who started work for Philip Morris in the 1970s and is regarded as one of the first “whistleblowers” on the tobacco industry, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “The average American knows that cigarette smoking is dangerous and can cause heart disease and other things, but what people don’t know is the length the industry went in order to cloud the issue.”
Through secret testing in a hidden laboratory, DeNoble used rats to prove just how powerfully addictive nicotine was long before the public had any idea. He claims that his shocking findings were squashed by the powers-that-be. Not long after his remarkable discoveries he also learned he was out of the job.
“My purpose in making the film was to break out the issue of tobacco dependence in an industry that produces the most lethal product on earth,” said filmmaker Evans Jr. “There is also a need to educate young people in a way that inspires them to make good decisions and provide information.”
In response to the film, a rep for Philip Morris USA said that the company agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking is addictive and causes serious diseases in smokers.
“Philip Morris stood alone among the major cigarette manufacturers in support of FDA regulation over cigarettes and believes that this regulation can provide significant benefits to tobacco manufacturers and adult tobacco consumers,” a company rep said.
Yet according to DeNoble, the battle has only really just begun, and he is pushing for further regulation.
“Someday they could produce a cigarette that only produces a little nicotine. That would mean that if young people experimented, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a lifelong addition. But the tobacco isn’t going to lie down to this. They will clearly fight every step of the way,” he said. “I want people not to be complacent. Half a million people die annually from smoking, that’s just in the United States. Six million people die in the world every single year from tobacco products. I want people to realize we need to take action.”
“Addiction Incorporated” premieres in Los Angeles on Friday, January 13.
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay