The true story of Victor DeNoble, one of the most important and influential whistleblowers of all time, comes to the big screen in ADDICTION INCORPORATED.
In the 1980s, DeNoble was a research scientist at a major tobacco company, where he was tasked with finding a substitute for nicotine that would not cause heart attacks. He succeeded- but in the process, he proved something that the industry had been denying for years: that cigarettes were addictive. He also uncovered a new addictive ingredient- setting off a chain of events that still reverberates even today.
In a true act of modern-day heroism, DeNoble took his findings to the people despite a strict confidentiality agreement, eventually testifying about his research in the infamous 1994 Congressional hearings with the seven heads of the major tobacco companies. An unprecedented alliance of journalists, politicians, attorneys, and whistleblowers achieved what was once considered impossible- the first ever federal regulation of the tobacco industry, which continues to have repercussions even today.
They all come together to tell their stories in ADDICTION INCORPORATED — a story of one man risking everything to make a difference, shaking up a powerful industry and saving countless lives along the way.
Victor DeNoble’s Statement
Victor J. DeNoble
Scientists do research with the hope that we will have a positive impact on people’s lives. I thought I would 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.
Seventeen years ago, when Charlie approached me about doing a documentary, I didn’t think there was even a story. I did not see the historical value of these events as they were unfolding, Charlie did! I underestimated Charlie’s commitment and his passion for the project. Working on this documentary helped me to realize how many hundreds, if not thousands, of people came together with a mission to create this public health policy change. This documentary weaves together a multitude of events; the result of which will be felt for decades to come.
My parents nurtured in me a desire to help people. It’s the reason I became a scientist and the reason I teach kids science. I have dyslexia and ADHD. When I was a kid, there was no understanding of what they were. School, learning and just paying attention were always a struggle. I was told I was stupid and that I may not graduate high school, much less go to college. I believed it and I was wrong. What motivates me today, is reaching out to kids who feel they can’t go beyond high school and show them that they have more opportunities open to them than they think.
This documentary isn’t the end of a story; it’s just the first chapter of the events that led to the changes we’ve seen to the health policy within the United States. The next chapters have begun to unfold with continued changes, not only in our Nation, but also with changes in public health policy in other nations around the world.
Charles Evans, Jr.’s Statement
Charles Evans Jr.
I set out to tell the story of a man who wants to use science to improve peoples’ lives. As the film’s title suggests, ADDICTION INCORPORATED went on to share its central focus with the tobacco industry. The story of a determined scientist, Victor DeNoble, who sets out to do good, is woven into the decline of an industry that produces the most lethal product on earth.
I first saw Victor DeNoble on CSPAN answering a subcommittee’s questions. His testimony was dramatic because he flatly contradicted testimony in that same chamber by 7 CEO’s. Their position (nicotine was “not addictive”) had been coordinated and brazen but had never been contradicted by someone who spoke with authority.
Victor became the first to publicly speak of his work for “the industry.” He told of an ambitious R&D program whose mandate was to maximize the addictiveness of cigarettes. The oversight hearing was now a crime scene and as the reputations and fortunes of tobacco companies plummeted, I got to know Victor and optioned the rights to make a film of his life.
When tobacco companies did not crash and burn, as you expect from a studio movie’s climax, I understood the film would have to be a documentary.
As I researched the history of tobacco production, litigation, illness, etc. the film’s subject expanded. One statistic was particularly influential: “more Americans are killed each year from tobacco related illness than were killed in all of our wars over the last Century, combined.” While everyone knows it’s a problem, my takeaway was the film had to introduce a solution. So near film’s end, I spotlight FDA’s current authority to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to levels that would not sustain addiction. For the sake of momentum, I did not cite the polls that found %70 of Americans, smokers included, would approve of said nicotine reduction. Most people, smokers included, don’t want future generations to smoke. I want ADDICTION INCORPORATED to spark that debate.
See also: Crew