John Luik

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John Luik is a tobacco industry consultant who has been criticised for concealing his links with the industry and misrepresenting his academic credentials.
He has written numerous articles which doubt the effectiveness of plain packaging and downplay the health effects of second-hand smoke. He has spoken at tobacco company conferences and workshops, been employed as an anti-smoke-free spokesperson, and is a columnist on the smokers’ rights website Forces.
Luik is a Democracy Institute senior fellow 1 and has a long association and has co-authored articles and reports with Patrick Basham, the director of the Institute.2 He is also a former senior associate of the Niagara Institute3, which was funded by British American Tobacco, as a “consultant group on junk science”.4

Nearly 20 Years of Working with the Tobacco Industry on Plain Packaging

From the Plain Packs Group…

In 1993, representatives from eight international tobacco companies set up The Plain Pack Group, also known as the Plain Packs Working Group, to develop a coordinated, worldwide strategy against plain packaging.5 The companies commissioned a book about the issue and in 1994 Luik was invited to a meeting at Rothmans Tobacco to discuss a proposal he had submitted to serve as managing editor for the publication.6 The book, entitled “Plain Packaging and the Marketing of Cigarettes”, was published in 1998 by Admap Publications in Oxfordshire, England. It concluded that public health assumptions about the beneficial effects of plain packaging were defective, that plain packaging would cause problems with smuggling and threaten the values of a democratic society. It wasn’t until 2001 that a report emerged in the Montreal Gazette that Luik was paid US $155,000 to edit the book. The total cost of the book project to the participating tobacco companies was US $240,000.7
For more info see The Plain Pack Group

… and ARISE…

Luik was also an associate of the tobacco industry-funded group, Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment (ARISE), that was publicly active between 1991 and 1999. ARISE members promoted the use of legal substances, including tobacco, to relieve stress and thus benefit health. In 1993 Luik delivered a paper called Pleasure and Democratic Principles at an ARISE conference in Brussels in which he labeled public health authorities “neo-puritans” and “health paternalists” and claimed they were “fundamentally at odds with the core values of a democratic society, namely autonomy and respect.”8 Speaking as a representative of the Niagara Institute at a subsequent ARISE conference in Amsterdam in 1995, Luik labeled health promotion as “anti-science, anti-reason and anti-freedom,” and said it was closer in nature to religion and politics than science.”9

…to a New Plain Packaging Book

Some 18 years later, on the eve of the British Government’s consultation on Plain Packaging, and on No Smoking Day 2012, Patrick Basham and Luik published a book on the issue, entitled “The Plain Truth”. The book was launched at the Institute of Economic Affairs. The press release for the book noted: “Plain packaging does not work. Furthermore, it cannot work, argue Patrick Basham and John Luik in this timely, provocative book that confronts the public health establishment’s proposal to mandate the plain packaging of tobacco products.”10

Supporting the Industry’s Arguments

In 2011, Luik and Basham supported the legal strategy of the Tobacco Industry by approaching the plain packaging issue from the point of intellectual property and trademark rights. The Washington Legal Foundation published a ‘monograph’ of their Democracy Institute publication entitled “Erasing Intellectual Property. ‘Plain Packaging’ for consumer products and the implications for Trademark rights”.11 This publication was subsequently used in their submission to the public consultation on plain packaging in Australia.12
In January 2012, the Washington Legal Foundation published a working paper against health warnings by the couple. The key points according to the authors:

* Graphic health warnings are not grounded in social psychological principles and are not supported by scientific evidence. Properly conducted studies show that such warnings not only are ineffective, but can be counterproductive.

* Graphic health warnings are fundamentally at odds with three core democratic values: autonomy, respect, and freedom of expression.13.

Praise of Plain Packaging Campaigns

In the June 2011 issue of the industry magazine Tobacco Reporter, John Luik offers praise to the tobacco control movement in general, and to Australia’s move towards plain packaging in particular.

Finally, one must give credit to the fact that the focus on plain packaging represents a new and more strategically sophisticated appreciation on the part of the anti-tobacco lobby of both how the industry is structured and how it earns its money. The lobby has realized that cigarettes are in many ways a commodity product that achieves its distinctiveness not so much through functional differences but through brand identity, an identity that is represented in the product’s packaging.

This means that the industry’s equity and sustained profitability is a function of the value of its brands. If one wishes to attack the industry at its most vulnerable point, there is no better place than to destroy the value of its brands through eliminating their distinctive packaging.14

With this, Luik offers an insight in the potential impact of plain packaging for the industry’s profits.

Against Display Bans

In 2009, Luik and Basham wrote a report attacking Tobacco Display Bans, published by the Democracy Institute. Although this publication was announced on several websites15, it is not published by the Democracy Institute, nor anywhere else. Nor is the report in the catalogue of the British Library. The only reference to the 203-page book seems to be an editorial in the industry trade magazine Tobacco Reporter.16 It might be that project never got beyond an article in Spiked-online.17
In 2011, Luik and Basham published a paper in the journal Economic Affairs on the same topic. According to the abstract the paper examined the effects of tobacco display bans in four countries: Canada, Iceland, Thailand and Ireland. “The empirical evidence suggests that the bans have not been effective at reducing the incidence of smoking. They have, however, succeeded in severely damaging the revenues of the independent retail sector and bolstering the illicit market in tobacco.”18

Work on Passive Smoking

In 1987, Philip Morris and its law-firms Covington and Burling and Shook, Hardy and Bacon created the “Whitecoat Project” to counter claims that passive smoking was harmful to health. (The tobacco industry describes second-hand smoke as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS).
The “Whitecoat Project ” sought to single out independent scientists and analysts who would “go beyond the establishment of a controversy concerning an alleged ETS health risk but to disperse the suspicion of risk.”19 The project aimed to “generate a body of scientific and technical knowledge in the field of ETS” so it could be used to “provide scientific and technical resources to challenge existing laws; counter specific legislative and regulatory threats; and respond to scientific mis-information and bias as it arises in these markets”.20 The project ran for at least a decade.
Luik was an active player in the project. There is, for instance, in the Legacy Archive of Tobacco Documents, a letter written to Philip Morris’ law firm Brown and Williamson in which Luik suggested two ideas for publications, on top of the work he and Gio Gori were commissioned to do, a book on ETS and an article on the social costs of smoking. He proposed a piece on ‘corrupted science’ and suggested to publish his comment on a court case decision in Canada. The publication of the comment could be “sponsored by a think-tank here if you wish. The Canadian Tobacco Manufacturer’s Committee (BAT, RJR, Rothmans) would be very interested in co-sponsoring such a venture and I think Rothmans in Dennam would be interested as well.”21
In 1999, Luik and Gori finished their book titled Passive Smoke: The EPA’s Betrayal of Science and Policy.22 The book was published by the Canadian Fraser Institute and challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s classification of second hand smoke as a Class A carcinogen.
Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, a pressure group, called the book “one of the most explicit attacks on the credible science of second-hand smoke”.23
After Luik and Gori’s book attacking the U.S. EPA’s report was published, tobacco holdings in the Fraser Institute increased from 1.3 percent ($31,740 to $76,180) of the Institute’s total annual budget from 1996 to 1998, to 5 percent ($229,300) in 1999, according to the Montreal Gazette.24

“Misrepresenting” Academic Credentials

Luik has been fired from one university and one college for making misleading statements about his academic achievements and qualifications.
According to the Montreal Gazette in 2001:

(Luik) taught philosophy at the Canadian Nazarene College in Winnipeg from 1977 to 1985, when he was dismissed from the college for lying on his resume. He claimed to have a doctorate from Oxford University. He eventually received his doctorate from Oxford but not until 1986.

He applied in 1985 to Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and was accepted as an assistant professor in the philosophy department, where he taught applied and professional ethics. Brock knew about his misrepresentation at the Nazarene College but chose to give him another chance, believing that one mistake should not destroy a man’s career.

But, in 1990, Brock discovered that Luik’s one mistake had turned into a flood as he continued to misrepresent his academic qualifications. “It is not any single misrepresentation (…) so much as the apparently uniform pattern of misrepresentations engaged in since 1977 that suggests that Professor Luik is not capable of fulfilling his duties and responsibilities as an assistant professor at Brock University,” a 17-page faculty report says. The report further states that Professor Luik showed “no particular signs of contrition or even embarrassment on being confronted with his misrepresentation. … This suggested that what was involved was indeed faulty moral judgement.”

Luik claimed on his resumes to have held a full-time position at the University of Manitoba and to have taught three graduate courses at the University of Winnipeg. He lied on all counts. He never held a full-time job at the University of Manitoba and the graduate course he claimed to have taught at Winnipeg didn’t even exist, according to university spokesman Catherine Unruh. She said the university has never offered graduate courses in philosophy.25

In June 2001, a CBC Television report investigated Luik’s credentials. It stated that during Luik’s professorship at Brock University, the Dean of Humanities, Cecil Abrahams, discovered that Luik had made misleading statements about visiting professorships at other academic institutions and had added books or articles to his list of publications that did not exist. Abrahams told reporters:

I certainly would not trust anything John Luik says because he must be the worst case of fraud that I have come across and I’ve been an administrator at universities for a long period of time, both in North America and in Africa, and I think he’s by far the worst case of fraudulent behaviour. 26

Problems with Academic Publications

Luik tried to get his work published in respected academic journals, but this was not without its challenges. This was specifically so in 1993, for an article attacking EPA and its research on the risks of second-hand smoke. Luik accused the organisation of using “corrupted science” to reach its conclusions about second-hand smoke. He called EPA’s actions “health paternalism” and claimed they posed a threat to legitimate democratic public policy-making. 27
Eventually, the article was published in Bostonia, the alumni quarterly of Boston University as ‘Pandora’s Box: The Dangers of Politically Corrupted Science for Democratic Public Policy’. The description of the author said only “Dr. John C. Luik, a non-smoker, is a Senior Associate of the Niagara Institute” – no mention of his extensive involvement with the tobacco industry. The Bostonia is sent free to all of the alumni of Boston University and is not peer-reviewed.28
CBC Television, investigating Luik’s credentials, commented:

This article written by Luik shows up in an obscure university alumni magazine. It characterizes as corrupt science the research used to link second-hand smoke to lung cancer. It’s a seemingly independent rebuttal to the argument in favor of anti-smoking legislation. One that could be quoted by mainstream media outlets looking for balance in the smoking debate. In the article, Luik is described only as a non-smoker and a management consultant. But industry documents show tobacco executives actually worked with Luik to write the article.29

Indeed, Philip Morris for instance, intervened with points of criticism and suggestions for change at several points30

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  1. P. Basham, J. Luik, NYC, the city that never smokes, Democracy Institute, 26 October 2009
  2. For example: Patrick Basham and John Luik, ‘Working class are under attack from health paternalism’, The Guardian, 29 April 2010, accessed 9 June 2011
  3. J. Luik, ‘Pandora’s box – the dangers of politically corrupted science for democratic public policy’, Bostonia, winter 1993-4, accessed 6 June 2011
  4. C. Proctor,1995 budget, 7 October 1995, accessed June 2011
  5. J. Smithson, Terminology and Terms of Reference, Rothmans International Tobacco Limited, 8 October 1993, accessed 1 June 2011
  6. J. Smithson, Dr John Luik memo, Rothmans International Tobacco Limited, 8 April 1994, accessed 1 June 2011
  7. W. Marsden, W., tobacco’s shell game with the truth”, Montreal Gazette, 21 June 2001, accessed May 2012
  8. J. Luik, Pleasure and Democratic Principles, paper delivered at ARISE conference, 1993
  9. D. L .C. Kay, Report on ARISE meeting 22-26 April, Amsterdam, RJReynolds interoffice memorandum, 1 May 1995
  10. P. Basham and John Luik, The Plain Truth, Institute of Economic Affairs, 2012, accessed February 2012
  11. P. Basham, J. Luik, Democracy Institute, Erasing Intellectual Property. ‘Plain Packaging’ for consumer products and the implications for Trademark rights, Washington Legal Foundation, 2011
  12. P. Basham, J. Luik, Submission to the Department of Health and Ageing Public consultation on plain packaging, Government of Australia, Canberra, accessed May 2012
  13. P. Basham, J. Luik,Health Warnings on consumer products. Why scarier is not better, Working Paper Series, Washington Legal Foundation, 2011, accessed May 2012
  14. J. Luik, ‘Blank Slate: Will plain packaging catch on?’ Tobacco Reporter, June 2011
  15. see for instance: Cato,
    Displaying Their Ignorance on Smoking, Website, Accessed March 2012
  16. G. Gay, Plain to see. A new book exposes the folly of tobacco retail display bans, October 2009, accessed May 2012
  17. P. Basham, J. Luik, Displaying their ignorance on smoking, Why does New Labour want to ban cigarette displays in shops when there’s no evidence it will impact on smoking habits?, Spiked, 29 April 2009, accessed May 2012
  18. P. Basham, J. Luik, Tobacco Display Bans: A Global Failure,Economic Affairs, Vol. 31, Iss. 1, pp. 96–102, March 2011. In the same issue, the two published an article on gambling: Patrick Basham and John Luik , The Social Benifits of Gambling, Economic Affairs, Vol. 31, Iss. 1, pp. 9–13, March 2011
  19. H.W. Gaisch, The European Counterpart to ‘Operation Downunder’, The Role of S&T PME, 21 February 1988
  20. Philip Morris, Proposal for the organisation of the Whitecoat Project, Tobacco Archive Documents, 1990
  21. J. Luik, Letter to S. Boyse at Brown and Williamson, 1998, 27 July 1998
  22. G. Gori, J. Luik, Passive smoke: the EPA’s betrayal of science and policy, Vancouver, Canada: Fraser Institute, 1999
  23. Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, John Luik, website, undated, accessed 6 June 2011

  24. An article in the Weekend Australian details how the Australian Institute of Public Affairs hosted Luik on a passive smoking speaking tour in 1996. It said:

    The National Heart Foundation sponsored an Australian speaking tour by Professor Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California – the industry’s number one enemy. But he arrived to discover somebody had tasted his porridge and sat in his chair… John Luik had criss-crossed the country before him describing the campaign against passive smoking as a “dangerous mix of science and propaganda”. His visit was hosted by the Institute for Public Affairs.31K. Legge, ‘Passive aggression: the showdown on smoking in public places’, Weekend Australian, 17 August 1996, accessed 8 June 2011

  25. W. Marsden, “Luik lied to universities about his qualifications”, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), 21 June 2001. Another quote from the Brock University review of Luik: “The fact that there has been a consistent pattern of misrepresentations gives such misrepresentations a direct bearing on the question of ability since the teaching of applied and professional ethics involves the exercise of moral judgment. The misrepresentations in which Prof. Luik has engaged in the course of his professional career provide examples of how he exercises moral judgment and reflect adversely on his ability as an instructor in applied and professional ethics.” Brock University, “The recommendation of the Department of Philosophy that the employment contract of Prof. J.C. Luik with Brock University not be renewed,” 1990
  26. CBC TV News and Current Affairs, Luik transcript, 21 June 2001, accessed 8 June 2011

  27. Luik and the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, who had commissioned the article, discussed various options for publication. Industry documents show that Luik was aware that emphasising the lack of statistical significance for second-hand smoke to cause cancer – although good for the industry – “might risk having the paper accepted for publication”. His letter to John Lepere at CECCM also revealed that Luik felt the pressure from the the tobacco industry to take a strong position:

    John, you should note that I am deferring on this issue to your members wishes – specifically PM and RJR – about stating the strongest case possible on statistical significance. (The importance of the matter was brought home to me last week when I met on another matter (…) with RJR Vice President and General Counsel, Dan Donahue, who will be arguing the EPA case and who emphasised that RJR will be taking the position that there is no significance to any of the studies and no reasonable basis for the EPA decision) At the same time you should be aware that an article like this is not easy to get published and receives an enormous amount of very careful reviewing.32

    The journal of choice was the Philosophy and Public Affairs Journal. Prior to publication, Luik shared the contents of the paper with several tobacco companies and asked for their help in responding to a reviewer’s objection. The reviewer asserted that one of Luik’s central claims was “manifestly false”.33 J. Lepere, ‘J.C. Luik’s paper for publication – ‘Pandora’s box – the dangers of politically corrupted science for democratic public policy’, Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, 9 November 1993. For an overview of all correspondence within the CECCM about the Luik paper, see Correspondence concerning John C. Luik from John Lepere, The Confederation Of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers Limited March-December, 1993, accessed May 2012

  28. John Luik, to John Lepere of the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers, 18 December 1993
  29. CBC TV News and Current Affairs, Luik transcript, 21 June 2001, CBC Television
  30. J.A. Andrade, Letter to Gerard Wirts, Philip Morris interoffice post, 6 July 1993