Tage Voss

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Dr Tage Voss was a well-known Danish television physician and a celebrated media personality; he was known as the Danish "TV Doctor". He was the author of many books and newspaper articles on various diseases, conditions and life-styles. His image on television was that of the old, wise, curmudgeon always smoking a large cigar; and his theme was to poor scorn on the puritans who tried to deny the public of simple pleasures of wine and cigarettes. Naturally his voice was fuelled by generous doses of tobacco industry money.

He was closely associated with another Danish heart disease specialist, Dr Flemming Kismeyer, and both were part of the EGIL group (a Whitecoats society) which was run by Torbjorn Malmfors for the tobacco industry. Both physicians were also associated with Hen-Ry, the Scandanavian Smoker's Rights group, which had enormous influence across the Nordic countries. They were so useful to the industry that they were often sent on global media junkets to speak at seminars, and to promote the industry message to press groups. As heart specialists, they would simply deny that smoking caused any heart problems.

Documents & Timeline

1988 Apr 30 Monthly report of Helmut Gaisch, (FTR - the Swiss subsidiary of PM) with notes on Helmut Reif's meetings:

Meeting with Dr Tage Voss, a Danish "TV Doctor", who has written 35 books on health questions and has been well known for his TV programmes for some 20 years.

His "trademark" is a cigar in his mouth and the Danes regard him as an advocate of the pleasures of life in a balanced way. He has proposed to write a preface to Tollison's book "Clearing the Air". This would give him the opportunity to sum up the most important messages of this book.

He also agreed to write articles for the periodical of the Danish pro-smoker's association "HEN-RY". [2]

[Robert D Tollison was the economics professor at George Mason University who (with organiser, James Savarese) created and ran the Cash-for-Comments Economists' Network). They paid about 50 Public Choice professors of Economics to write articles which they were then to plant on local newspapers as op-eds. They were told what to write, and which newspapers to send the article to.]

1988 Dec 12 One of the main Philip Morris corporate lobbyists in Europe, Stig Carlson has written to his American superior, the lawyer Charles Lister with details of his plans for countering regulations of second-hand smoke in the Nordic Area. Following the success of their involvement in (Nisses/REDAB) Carl-Gustav Pettersson's Health Buildings 88 symposium in Stockholm they have decided to run another, code-named "Office Environment 1990" as a joint venture between the TCO labour union, the national building society, and Torbjorn Malmfors' EGIL group. (the Nordic Whitecoats) They are also planning another symposium with three different events:

  1. on Cardiovascular disease and work environment (to discount passive smoking as a problem.
  2. on Risk assessment (mainly for the PR)
  3. on Sick Building Syndrome. (to discount passive smoking)

    "My recommendation is that we plan for three different contact points to the events in order to avoid the infamous "fingerprints". The EGIL group, or parts of it, look the best for the toxicology event ( (2) "Risk assessment of chemicals in occupational environments") The PR agency remains to be discussed.
    I feel that a new player, like Svenska Flaekt, could be used, via ACVA, to tackle the environmental conference ( (3) "Sick Building Syndrome") In this case it would be Svenska PR-Byraan, the official CA agency of ACVA. The third ( (1) on Cardiovascular disease) is harder to envisage. Perhaps some of out international contacts like Jack Peterson? Or, if we decide to meet it head-on, the "Hen-Ry" group with the doctors Kismeyer and Voss.

  1. The EGIL group of Whitecoats was run by Torbjorn Malmfors with a number of scientists and medical doctors who were willing to work for a fee, provided they weren't identified as tobacco industry contractors. They were to be used for the Chemicals in Occupational Environments event which would focus on indoor air problems arising from toxic chemicals, rather than on smoking.
  2. Gray Robertson's ACVA/HBI had just licensed a IAQ testing company Svenska Flaekt in Sweden which was part of a larger construction group. they would run the "Sick Building Syndrome" seminar because they were 'clean-skins' without any previous 'fingerprints' from having worked for tobacco.
  3. Professor Jack E Peterson from the University of Wisconsin, also ran a tobacco-funded IAQ testing company on the side known as Peterson Associates which had begun as an industrial hygiene business working for Dow Chemicals in Midland, Michigan.
  4. The Hen-Ry group was a Smoker's Rights organisation (funded by Philip Morris), and led by Dr Tage Voss and his close friend Dr Flemming Kismeyer, a heart specialist from Aahus University (who was also a friend of Andrew Whist of Philip Morris). They may have been paid, or may have simply benefitted from free travel and accommodation when on various media tours, or attending conferences.

    The use of "Clearing the Air" Books.
    The Finns are publishing their book in the local language spring 1989. Dr Voss is positive he can find an independent Danish publisher, so the industry's role would only be to help the marketing process, which we should do via Burson-Marsteller. (The US PR company operating in Europe) The Norwegians have, as you know, so far refused.[3]

1992 Dec 30 The Times article by Woodrow Wyatt "Light up for a long life" promoted the idea that smoking is good for you.

[Wyatt was Rupert Murdoch's liason man with Margaret Thatcher, and a Curmudgeon columnist for The Times His published diary shows that both Murdoch and Thatcher phoned him constantly to discover what they other was thinking.]
Wyatt was quoting from a book by Danish physician Tage Voss, "Smoking and Common Sense", and he made the following points that were attacked in the Royal Statistical Society News, March 1993.
  • Life expectancy has risen 28 years in the last 90 years, which have been "the most intense period of smoking in history." [The main change in longevity had been in the reduction of deaths among babies in their first year and in young children. He also ignored two world wars, vast improvements in occupational safety, the discovery of penicillin, etc.]
  • Asbestos workers who smoke get lung cancer less then those who don't. [He is totally wrong: Actually heavily-exposed asbestos workers have a relative risk (RR) of lung-cancer which is 5x normal; If they are heavy smokers but don't work with asbestos they have a RR of 10. However these two factors are synergistic: Dr Irving Selikoff the recognised authority on this matter at about this time set the combined RR at 90.]
[Even today 1 in 10 smokers will die of lung-cancer as will 1 in 100 non-smokers (occupational exposures mainly). Even the Tobacco Research Council had published evidence 20 years ago that smokeers had a 10-fold excess of lung-cancer.]

The author of the critical article sums up Wyatt's column as saying {poor translation]:

It is difficult to understand how anyone can today remain deluded that cigarette smoking is a major public health issue. It causes many more deaths in developed countries than any other preventable cause, even than HIV infection and AIDS, which is perceived by many as the primary health issue.
However, Woodrow Wyatt did publish in 1985 a book "Confessions of an Optimist"; so perhaps he can be deluded, unaware. It is even more difficult to understand how a scientist, especially perhaps a physician [ie Voss], could publish a book on health issues with such gross, inaccuracies and misleading use of statistics.
Whatever one's belief on the risks of cigarette smoking to both smoker and non-smoker, it must remain an ethical responsibility of the scientist to avoid such errors of fact, before focusing on interpretation. [4]