Carl V Phillips

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Background

Carl V. Phillips is a leading advocate of harm reduction, who has been receiving funding from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, a manufacturer of smokeless tobacco and from British American Tobacco (BAT). His ties to the tobacco industry eventually caused an end to his academic career.

Phillips presents himself as a former 'professor in public health' – claiming, for example, “I spent most of my career as a professor of public health" in a submission to the Australian Senate[1] – while strictly speaking the highest position he ever achieved in academia was associate professor. More importantly, according to his own CV, Phillips never got a degree in Public Health.[2] Phillips acted as a paid expert witness for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company in 2002, although his CV does not mention any papers on smokeless tobacco or oral cancer until 2006.[2][3] Since Phillips received an $1.5m from USSTC for research support after his work for the company in court, it is fair to say that his expertise is build on tobacco money.

This page examines Phillips' career and his affiliations with the tobacco industry. A second page details Phillips' academic record and his role in countering critics.

Career

  • 1995 PhD degree in Public Policy from Harvard University.[4]
  • 1995 – 1997 two-year post-doctoral fellowship in Health Policy Research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar at the University of Michigan.[5]
  • 1997 – 2000 Assistant Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health at the University of Minnesota;
  • 2001 – 2005 Assistant Professor at the Center for Clinical Research and Evidence Based Medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston, Texas);
  • 2005 – 2009 Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Canada;
  • 2009 – present self employed (see Philips’ Private Undertakings);
  • 2012 – present merged activities with the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA).


N.B.In the United States and Canada the title of 'professor' is customarily used to refer to most scholars with doctorate degrees or equivalent qualifications (typically PhDs), while in the Commonwealth nations and northern Europe 'professor' is reserved only for the most senior academics at a university.[6]

In 2002 the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC) was taken to court by a former customer diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Phillips, then employed by the University of Texas School of Public Health, was hired by USSTC as an expert witness to testify if Smokeless Tobacco had a causal association with oral cancer in general, and with tongue cancer in particular. Phillips was paid more than $20,000 for his consultancy.[7]

According to his deposition, Phillips testified that, based on his literature review, "there is no evidence that these products lead to cancer of the tongue", and furthermore that "the epidemiologic evidence does not establish that there is any link to oral cancer more generally".[8] However during the deposition it became clear that Phillips' background in "field epidemiology" was limited:

Well, I should clarify that the epidemiology I do – again I am not quite sure whether I understand the question – but the epidemiology I do is not what gets called field epidemiology. And most of the time when somebody uses the phrase "found something," it refers to the result of a field study. That is, somebody went out and gathered new data and presented it. I don't know if that's what you meant, but if it was, that's not what I do. My speciality is the part of the analysis that goes from – that starts with the data that somebody else has gathered and proceeds there through interpretation and decision making based on it.[9]

Phillips conceded that the majority of materials reviewed by him were provided by USSTC's Counsel,[10] and that he had only reviewed the 1986 study of the Surgeon General, not its more recent 2000 report which concluded that oral tobacco caused cancer of the mouth.[11] Furthermore the two studies highlighted by Phillips as most significant in his analysis, were studies based on a different type of smokeless tobacco than that produced by USSTC.[12] The case was eventually settled out of court.

Tobacco Industry Funded Research

Following his work as an expert witness in litigation, Phillips received an unrestricted gift from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company for research support. He received the money through one of his companies, the ‘non-profit research institute’ called the Center for Philosophy, Health, and Policy Sciences, Inc. Phillips disclosed this in the ‘competing interests’ section of BMC Public Health in 2005. One of the co-authors, Brian Guenzel was employed by the institute, while Phillips acted as the director. Both Phillips and the third co-author disclosed having received consulting fees from USSTC related to litigation. However, they argued that ‘[t]his research was investigator-initiated. USSTC did not influence the content or see the study results before they were publicly released."[13]

Meanwhile, Phillips was still employed at the University of Texas Medical School, Center for Clinical Research and Evidence Based Medicine, and the School of Public Health, both part of the University’s Health Science Center at Houston.[13]

University of Alberta Smoke-Free

Phillips went to the University of Alberta School of Public Health in 2005 with a $1.5-million grant from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. His research focused on the health effects of smokeless tobacco, and later the use of electronic cigarettes. He left the University in “mutually agreement” at the end of 2009, he told CBC Canada.[14][15]

Although Phillips emphasised in the press that his departure was completely voluntary, his work had become increasingly difficult after the Faculty had decided to no longer allow staff to receive tobacco industry funding in June 2007.[16] Following a debate on taking money from the industry, the University of Alberta became one of the first tobacco-free campuses.[17] As a result of that decision, Phillips had been forced to cancel a forum he had organised called “Conference on Academic Freedom and Research Integrity.” In an interview in Canada’s National Post at the time, in 2007, he said his research was stifled, and that he had been attacked. He also told the paper he had received a letter from the department saying that since he no longer had funding, he was being terminated.[16]

In another comment, Phillips pictured himself as a victim of “the anti-tobacco orthodoxy” who condemn and oppose the approach of harm reduction “in favour of the ineffective abstinence-only (a.k.a. "quit or die") strategy.” The piece was called “Warning: anti-tobacco activism may be hazardous to epidemiologic science.”[18] Phillips’ account of the campaign trying to damage his career was circulated to about 50 people working in Philip Morris research, development and engineering department – marked confidential.[19]

Phillips’ Private Undertakings

Since he was forced to leave the University of Alberta, Phillips hasn't been affiliated with any university. Until last year, his activities were organised through a maze of websites and companies of which he seems to be both the director and the only employee. In 2012, Phillips merged his undertakings with Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, (CASAA see below).

TobaccoHarmReduction.org and other blogs

Leaving the University, Philips took TobaccoHarmReduction.org with him. It is unclear whether this was more than just a website. His June 2010 CV described it as “my academic lab, privatized”, putting himself down as its Director and Chief Scientist.[2] The ‘About Us’ section of the website says No funder has played any role in the creation, design, or content of this website, which was entirely the product of University of Alberta faculty and other academic staff and now will continue under the auspices of CV Phillips's new research institute (details to follow). [20]

The website promoted smokeless nicotine products, however, it has not been updated since 2011, and no further details on the institute were provided. Interested visitors get referred to a blog called smokless (sic), but Phillips has not been publishing there on a regular base since 2011 either.[21] Another blog that Phillips has been using regularly mid2011 but not much since is called "EP-ology by Carl V. Phillips". At the main page, the name is explained by the bloggers main interests: ”EPidemiology, scientific EPistemology, Ethical and Evidenced-based Policy making.”

Populi Health Institute

Founded in 2003 as a non profit, the Populi Health Institute was registered as a domestic corporation and based at a single-family home in Houston, Texas. [22]As mentioned above and below, Phillips used the company to receive money from the tobacco industry.

Funding from BAT

The Populi Health Institute received funding from British American Tobacco to update research originally conducted at the University of Alberta, in order to include it in a book on harm reduction. According to the acknowledgements in the book, the money was used to pay two former colleagues from the University, Paul L. Bergen, and Catherine M. Nissen, while Phillips and the fourth co-author, Karyn K. Heaves volunteered their time.[23]

In this research funded by the industry, Phillips et al take the opportunity to rant against the academic tobacco control community. Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman are called "anti-tobacco extremists" and accused of actively and openly promoting "a vilification campaign (against smokers, nicotine-users, manufacturers, and even the tobacco plant itself)… under the euphemism ‘denormalization’ to try to make it sound less like a pogrom."[24]

Fighting Wind Turbines

In the past few years, Phillips has also acted as an expert witness at wind development planning hearings on the health dangers of living near wind turbines. Local communities hire Phillips through the Populi Health Institute (see for example this 2011 testimony), or as the director of his other company, the epiphi Consulting Group. His expertise on the subject of wind turbines has been challenged more than once. In a testimony in 2010, for instance, he wrote:

I admit to being new to this controversy ... But as someone who specializes in trying to sort out competing epidemiology-related policy claims, I find it difficult to see how the evidence could fail to be adequate to suggest that there is a serious problem worthy of further study.

Phillips acknowledges that researchers measuring noise from turbines have not found any physiological evidence that it harms people, but he argues that testimonies from locals shouldn't be discounted despite not being peer reviewed. [25]

Merger with CASAA

In 2012, Phillips joined the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association. CASAA sees itself as an advocacy group, set up to ‘organize’ and ‘coordinate activism efforts’ entirely through volunteers; it is a non-profit and not a trade organisation.[26] Communications to the press emphasise the fact that CASAA is a grass roots organisation that works to ensure the availability of reduced-harm alternatives to smoking and to provide truthful and accurate information about those alternatives so that people can make informed decisions.

CASAA was proud to present a merger with TobaccoHarmReduction.org, describing how originally it "started as a project of the University of Alberta Department of Public Health Sciences and was for many years the world's largest research and public education organization devoted to Tobacco harm reduction."[27] The CASAA website lists Phillips as its science director [28].

Anti-THR Lie of the Day

As a result of the merger with CASAA, Phillips now has a new blog, called Anti Tobacco Harm Reduction Lie of the Day. Despite the organisation’s vow to provide truthful and accurate information about alternatives to smoking, Phillips' blog sets out to counter the opponents which “consist of most of the tobacco control industry’, including: anti-tobacco extremists …and… those who hate industry more than they care about health” [29]

Product Endorsement

E-cigarettes

While still working for the University of Alberta, Phillips was interviewed by The Smokers Angle website of E-Cigarette Direct, the UK based online retailer of the NJOY electronic cigarette. In the interview Phillips actively promotes the switch to e-cigarettes, claiming that there is

absolutely no doubt that it is a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. … our estimate is that it is probably in the order of 99 per cent less harmful than smoking. Switching is so close as good as quitting that from a health point of view there is no point in worrying about the difference.[30]

E-Cigarette Direct also refers to an article by researchers in the Carl Phillips research group, the TobaccoHarmReduction.org Project at University of Alberta School of Public Health, which concluded: “The majority of the respondents indicated that their general health, smoker’s cough, ability to exercise, sense of smell and sense of taste were better since starting to use e-cigarettes.”

Swedish Match

In December 2011, Phillips blogged that he had tried a new Swedish Match product that had just been launched in the US market (see Picture 4), General Nordic Mint snus, applauding the tobacco product for being "good news for US smokeless users (and smokers who want to quit)".[31]

Picture 4: Carl V Phillips endorses Swedish Match snus product, calling it great news for US smokeless tobacco users (screen image www.smokles.wordpress.com, accessed 9 March 2012)


Industry events

  • Phillips was an invited panellist for a discussion on harm reduction at the annual tobacco industry conference TabExpo 2011 in Prague.[32][33]
  • Phillips is a member of British American Tobacco's External Scientific Panel.[15]


TobaccoTactics Resources


Notes

  1. Carl V Phillips, Submission of comments by Carl V. Phillips PhD on the Health Effects of Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents to the Australian Senate, 9 Feb 2011, accessed March 2013; and at his blog: About me, EP-ology blog, accessed March 2013. The CASAA board of directors website describes him as "Dr. Carl V. Phillips spent most of his career as a professor of public health science -- real public health and real science --" CASAA, Board of Directors, website, accessed March 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Carl V Phillips CV, June 2010, accessed February 2013.
  3. The first two relevant papers are: Phillips CV, Bergen PL, Guenzel B. Deconstructing anti-harm-reduction metaphors; mortality risk from falls and other traumatic injuries compared to smokeless tobacco use, Harm Reduction Journal, 3:15, 2006, accessed March 2013 and: Rodu B, Phillips CV. 'The association of nation-based alcohol-drinking profiles and oral cancer mortality remains unclear', Invited review, Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice. 7(2):75-76, 2007;
  4. Harvard Kennedy School; PhD in Public Policy Degrees Granted: 1973-2011, 2011, accessed Feb 2013
  5. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Carl V. Phillips Scholars in Health Policy Research, accessed Feb 2013
  6. In the United States and Canada the title of professor is granted to most scholars with doctorate degrees or equivalent qualifications (typically PhDs) who teach in two- and four-year colleges and universities, and is used in the titles assistant professor and associate professor, which are not considered professor-level positions elsewhere, as well as for full professors. In much of the world, including most Commonwealth nations (such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand) and northern Europe professor is reserved only for the most senior academics at a university. A professor is a highly accomplished and recognized academic, and the title is in most cases awarded only after decades of scholarly work to senior academics. for more detail see wikipedia.org Professor, accessed March 2013
  7. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il p9, 26 September 2002, accessed August 2011
  8. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il, p17, 26 September 2002, accessed August 2011
  9. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il, p11, 26 September 2002, accessed August 2011
  10. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il, p27, 26 September 2002, accessed August 2011
  11. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il, p28, 26 September 2002, accessed August 2011
  12. DATTA Collection, Deposition of CARL PHILLIPS, Ph.D., September 26, 2002, MCMULLIN v. UNITED STATES SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO. il, p19, 26 September 2002, accessed February 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 Phillips, C.V., C. Wang and B. Guenzel You might as well smoke; the misleading and harmful public message about smokeless tobacco, BMC Public Health, 2005, 5:31, accessed Feb 2013
  14. CBC, Canada, Tobacco researcher leaves U of A, 26 January 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 Karyn K Heavner et al., Retailers' knowledge of tobacco harm reduction following the introduction of a new brand of smokeless tobacco, Harm Reduction Journal, July 2010, accessed August 2011
  16. 16.0 16.1 National Post, Whither the campus radical? 28 September 2007
  17. Non-Smokers’ Rights Association (NSRA) and the Smoking and Health Action Foundation (SHAF), Tobacco Free Campus Guide
  18. Phillips, C, Warning: anti-tobacco activism may be hazardous to epidemiologic science, the Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 2007, 4:13
  19. Richard Carchman, Phillips 2007 comment re ETS science.pdf email communication2 November 2007, accessed February 2013. It was forwarded by retired Philip Morris Richard Carchman, who was Vice President of Research, Development, and Engineering for Philip Morris before he retired to be hired back as a consultant at $2,894 a day (up to a max of 205 days a year). Brian Brueggemann, Company says it never claimed light cigarettes are safer smoke Belleville (IL) News-Democrat, 3 March, 2003
  20. TobaccoHarmReduction.org About Us, website, no date, accessed February 2013
  21. see postings by Carl V Phillips at http://smokles.wordpress.com/author/carlvphillips/
  22. Zillow, 10923 Oasis Dr, Houston, TX 77096 Home and real estate website, accessed Feb 2013
  23. Carl V. Phillips, Karyn K. Heavner, Paul L. Bergen, and Catherine M. Nissen, Untapped Potential for Harm Reduction, in G. Alan Marlatt,Mary E. Larimer,Katie A. Witkiewitz, 2012, Harm Reduction, Second Edition: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High-Risk, Guilford Press, p.139, accessed February 2013
  24. Carl V. Phillips, Karyn K. Heavner, Paul L. Bergen, and Catherine M. Nissen, Tobacco: Untapped Potential for Harm Reduction, in G. Alan Marlatt, Mary E. Larimer, Katie A. Witkiewitz, 2012, Harm Reduction, Second Edition: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High-Risk, Guilford Press, p.130, accessed February 2013
  25. Carl V. Phillips, Analysis of the Epidemiology and Related Evidence on Health Effects of Wind Turbines on Local Residents, submitted to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission as testimony, 3 July 2010, accessed Feb 2013. In a paper on this subject he argues, as an epidemiologist, testimonies from people around the world offer "overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate". Phillips, Carl, http://bst.sagepub.com/content/31/4/303.short Properly Interpreting the Epidemiologic Evidence About the Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents', Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 20 Aug 2011, vol . 31 no. 3 pp303-315.
  26. CASAA.org, About CASAA, accessed Feb 2013
  27. CASAA, Tobacco Harm Reduction.org Merges with Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association Press release, July 2012, accessed February 2012
  28. CASAA.org,Who We Are – board of directors 2011-2012, website, accessed February 2013
  29. C. V. Phillips, Anti THR lies, about, blog, accessed Feb 2013
  30. E-cigarettedirect, Carl Phillips Interview - Electronic Cigarette Safety, undated, accessed Feb 2013
  31. Carl V Phillips, General Nordic Mint snus: good news for US smokeless users (and smokers who want to quit), 11 December 2011, accessed 9 March 2011
  32. TR Staff Report, Strong Line Up, Tobacco Reporter, July 2011, accessed August 2011
  33. Carl V Phillips, Random thoughts on TabExpo and the future of THR chattering, 25 November 2011, accessed 9 March 2012