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Famous Anti-Tobacco Activist Visits Westminster

Campus News

"Westminster Students Hear Seminar By Anti-Tobacco Activist"
By Don Norfleet

Permission from The Fulton Sun to be posted on the Westminster website.

Victor DeNobleWestminster College freshmen gathered Tuesday at Champ Auditorium in Fulton to hear Victor DeNoble, an anti-tobacco and anti-drug activist who speaks to students around the nation.

Amanda Stevens, wellness program director at Westminster, said DeNoble's appearance at Westminster fits well with the college's efforts to promote healthy lifestyle choices. Stevens has been a leader in the Fulton initiative petition campaign to ban smoking in public places that will be decided Nov. 2 by Fulton voters.

DeNoble said he worked for many years for the tobacco industry as a researcher. He said his research revealed that nicotine harmed brains of animals used in research, including rats and monkeys. DeNoble said his tobacco firm employer, Phillip Morris International, was not interested in research on brains but wanted him to concentrate on developing a cigarette that was not harmful to the heart.

DeNoble said he and other researchers eventually succeeded in developing such a cigarette with a nicotine substitute that was not harmful to human hearts but still caused users to crave smoking. But he said the tobacco firm eventually decided not to produce the cigarette because it would imply that previous cigarettes sold by the firm were harmful to the heart.

The tobacco firm also had many other tobacco products that it planned to continue to sell. DeNoble said marketing a cigarette not harmful to the heart might imply that all other tobacco products were harmful and the firm would lose money.

DeNoble said he was fired because his services were no longer needed but he stole research papers from the tobacco firm he worked for with the intention of taking them to government regulators. He gave the papers to a lawyer he hired. He said the lawyer claimed he lost the records but he believes the lawyer sold the research papers to the tobacco firm.

DeNoble later sent a slide showing his secret laboratory at the tobacco firm to the FBI with only his fingerprint on the slide and no other information. He then was contacted by the FBI and later by President Bill Clinton. DeNoble said he later testified before a Congressional Committee. He said a federal judge ordered him to tell the truth even though he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the tobacco firm.

During his discussion with Westminster students, DeNoble discussed the effect of drugs and alcohol on brains of humans. After the event, Julianne Bauer, a Westminster freshman from St. Louis, said she learned a lot about the effects of nicotine, marijuana and other drugs and was impressed that DeNoble had received a call from President Clinton urging him to testify to Congress. Madi Holcomb, a Kansas City freshman at Westminster, said she was impressed by DeNoble's comments. "It convinced me not to start smoking. I've got some ammunition to tell my roommates who smoke," Holcomb said.

DeNoble received a doctorate in the field of experimental psychology from Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., and has fellowships from both the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse at the Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. and the National Institute of Drug Abuse at the University of Minnesota. DeNoble is now vice president of Hissho, Inc., of San Diego. DeNoble said the corporation includes only himself and his wife. He said he has only about $100 invested in the corporation and he created it because he was afraid he would be sued by tobacco companies.

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