Sharon Boyse

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Sharon Boyse, whose married name is Sharon Blackie, was British American Tobacco's (BAT) main scientific-confuser in the UK, Europe, Asia and South America. Essentially, she was the strategist (along with Christopher J. Proctor and Clive Turner) most responsible for deflecting public and political attention away from the regulation of smoking in public places. (Note: Occasionally her surname is misspelled as BOYCE in the tobacco archives.)

There are thousands of documents which show her activities in both the BAT archives and in the general archives of the American tobacco companies, and these demonstrate that she developed a strong working relationship with dozens of corrupt scientists and politicians, and with industry lobbyists. She operated on an international scale, and associated closely (after initial reservations) with such top industry science-corrupters as Andrew Whist (of Philip Morris) and Bryan C. Simpson, the Director-General of the combined-industry's lobby group INFOTAB.

Sharon Boyse was deposed in October 2004 (as Sharon Blackie) [1]

Contractors and Whitecoats

After some initial reluctance, Boyse ran the British side of the tobacco industry's Whitecoats program from 1988 on. [2]

Some of Boyse's more prominent science-for-sale contractors were:

  • Steve Milloy who ran the TASSC and operations, which were funded to brand all scientific evidence against smoking as "junk science". He also ran the Issues Watch newsletter for companies with poisoning and polluting problems. See [3] [4] [5] [6]
  • Paul Dietrich who ran an anti-WHO (World Health Organisation) operation through his pseudo-think-tank, the Institute for International Health and Development in an attempt to force the WHO to abandon its anti-smoking program. [7]
  • Gray Robertson and Simon Turner of Healthy Buildings International who provided expert witness that second-hand smoke was only a minor pollutant in offices and public places. [8]
  • Robert D. Tollison the Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University. He was an economist who specialised in proving that cigarette smoking saved the government money (through early deaths), rather than being an economic burden on society.
  • Jean Boddewyn the Professor of Marketing and International Business, Baruch College, at the City University of New York (CUNY), who travelled the world giving her expert opinion that cigarette advertising had no effect on non-smokers or children, whatsoever.

Boyse also made effective use of the USA Whitecoats group known as IAPAG led by academics at various US universities, Nancy Balter, Sorell Schwartz, Philip Witorsch, etc.) who provided her with a flow of information, and helped her satisfy BAT's scientific witness requirements. [9] [10] She played an important part in the funding and training of the Asian Whitecoats group.

She also made some famous miscalculations: In March 1991 she ran a media conference in Guatemala which resulted in the Guatemalan government attacking the tobacco industry through the courts for misleading information. [11], and she failed to recognise the threat posed by an argument over money with Paul Dietrich who was, until then, her favourite media and WHO lobbyist. There was a series of letters between the US law firm Covington & Burling, BAT, and Dietrich over payment of US$30,000 towards paying for a translation of a book on an industry-oriented conference on passive smoking (the McGill ETS Symposium),' which had been sponsored in part by IIHD. [12]

During a 1999 court case (Newcomb v RJ Reynolds), she finally admitted that smoking causes disease. And in the same year she was talking openly to the Wall Street Journal about the problems of making cigarettes which did not contain carcinogens [13] as Brown & Williamson's director of scientific communications:

Ms. Boyse stresses that the company is making no health-benefit claims for the specially cured tobacco. "We can't be sure nitrosamine-free tobacco is necessarily safer," she cautions. "We don't want to claim the product is safer unless we are sure it is. It's a bit of a muggy area."

Work Responsibilities

Although scientifically trained, Boyse always operated in the area of public relations, political lobbying and science distortion. She tended to keep out of the limelight herself, and prefered to train others to take the spotlight position. With BAT having dozens of tobacco manufacturing plants around the world, she was constantly called upon to run training sessions and provide advice to the less-skilled PR operators and scientific lobbyists in the subsidiaries.

Part of her interest for keen students of the tobacco industry's half-century of subterfuge and corruption, is that she often wrote letters of advice, which spelled out the role of contractors, corrupt scientists, corporate opinions and information about on-going campaigns that her Americans associates would have been reluctant to put down on paper. [14]


Sharon Boyse was born June 30 1961 in Hartlepool, England She graduated with BA in Psychology Uni of Liverpool in 1982, and earned a PhD in pharmacology at the University of London, a few years later. For a short time she held a Wellcome Trust Travelling Research Fellowship to the University of Paris, then a Mental Health Foundation Research Fellowship, London

She joined BAT's Corporate R&D division at Millbank in the UK on December 3 1986 as Senior Adviser on Scientific Issues in the Smoking and Health Division, under RE Thornton. [15] According to Philip Morris reports, her "task is to tour Pharmacology Departments at Universities" At this time BAT needed to look out for research which may find evidence damaging to the industry, and also seek out potential scientific witnesses who might be willing to help them in court cases and government inquiries. [16]

Four years later, she was transfered to Public Affairs Department of the Corporate Affairs division as the Manager of Smoking Issues, and given staff assistance [17]. BAT was attempting at this time to compete for leadership of the international tobacco industry with the growing political and economic influence of Philip Morris (then largely under the control of Andrew Whist and Bill Murray).

Sometime between 1994 and 1996 she worked as a consultant for The Science Consultancy in Galway, Ireland (probably a short duration marriage?), then returned to BAT, but relocated to America as Director of Scientific Communications with the BAT subsidiary, Brown & Williamson in Louisville, Kentucky.


1961 June 30 Born Hartlepool, England

1982 Graduated from University of Liverpool with a BA in psychology

1985 A PhD in pharmacology from University of London, Faculty of Medicine

1986-91 Senior Scientific Advisor to BATCo (which suggests they didn't have anyone in place before) . She had the title of "Senior Scientific Advisor" and as "secretary to the Scientific Research Group" reading literature on Smoking & health. (She maintained that ... "BATCO's view was that people were aware of the health risks of smoking")

She sat on Tobacco Advisory Council and the International ETS Group, and was also on BAT Group's Scientific Research Group (SRC) (Created October 1986)

1988 Feb 17: Philip Morris called a special meeting of the UK industry (with BAT, Rothmans, Imperial Gallaher, C&B and Bioassay Ltd.) to explain their determination to implement new activities on behalf of the whole industry They are creating [Whitecoats] or [ETS Consultants] in many parts of the world. [18]

1988 MarchCovington & Burling setting up a London office to coordinate the ETS Consultants/WhiteCoats recruitment needs of Philip Morris. {From deposition]

The countries in Europe where they have already been working are the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia (via Sweden). A list of potential scientists who could be contacted in the UK was produced." "David Remes presented the approach of the US lawyers, and said that he believed their function to be to act as intermediaries between the consultants and the industry and also to indicate 'areas of sensitivity' on ETS research. He was not prepared to elaborate on these areas of sensitivity or on the state at which any filtering process would be carried out. He noted that in the USA, their strategy at first had been to meet short-term 'emergencies' by presenting teams of witnesses eg Witorsch, Gray Robertson. He did, however, acknowledge that this kind of roadshow would be unlikely to be acceptable in Europe. The Centre for Indoor Air Research that Philip Morris, RJR and Lorillard have set up in the US was mentioned as a further development of this strategy which would not necessarily be practical elsewhere."[19]

1991-93 She was now Manager of Smoking Issues with BATCo, Corporate Affairs. She dropped her role as manager of the company's external research and focussed on literature and communications. Her major focus was now on ETS and nicotine addiction. She worked with Ray Thornton, senior scientist (from 1960s). He retired in 1994.

"By 1991 BATCo had started using lawyers to approach scientists for the purpose of consulting with respect to ETS?"

{Note: we have her 1993 Diary at [20]

1993-94: Boyse was Head of Smoking Issues at BATCo. Smoking Issues Department newly formed. She had dropped R&D role and had moved out of Corporate Affairs Department - now formulating policy on ETS, Addiction, causation. Chris Proctor took her place on the International ETS Management Committee (IEMC) along with Matt Winokur from PM Corporate Affairs, and John Rupp of C&B

1993 Oct: At a meeting of the SRC, Gio Gori, a consultant, told them outright that nicotine was addictive. On record.

1994 Oct: She left BATCO and did consultancy work for the company while living in Ireland. Mainly running training courses on S&H for executives. Consulting back to BATCo. from 1994 to 1996. Consultant with The Science Consultancy, Galway, Ireland (Not found on-line)

1996 joined Brown & Williamson (the US BAT subsidiary in the USA) as Director of Scientific Communications in Louisville, Kentucky

1996-2000: Went to USA working for B&W as Director, Scientific Issues. until 2000

2001: Became director of Applied Research at B&W - managing part of the R&D looking for development of a less hazardous cigarette.

2002: Returned to England as Head of Strategic Research for British-American Tobacco Investments.

2002 Aug 21: She was deposed

2003 June: Retired

2004 Oct Her written testimony in the USA v PM court case she uses the Sharon Blackie name
She says in this later deposition that the current position of B&W was that ETS has not been proved to cause lung cancer, heart disease or other chronic diseases in adults. See her deposition. [21] and [22]

Articles and Sources

1993 Jan 6 to 12 From her Diary (taste only) we know that:

  • She flew to New York to meet Philip Morris and the International ETS Management Committee (IEMC); then to Miami, then to Caracas where she made a presentation, before returning to London
  • On the 14th she met the Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM) then flew to Madrid.
  • There was a Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR) meeting in St James Court on the 19th, followed by an "Additives Meeting on the 20th.
  • On the 25th she was in India.
{Note: During 1993 the Diary shows her globetrotting around the British tobacco empire, attending meetings and and talking to company managers, and running training courses for compliant scientists. Other Diary entries show her meeting with the smoker's rights group FOREST, and co-consiprators Chris Proctor, Clive Turner, etc. etc.]


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