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Elizabeth Whelan

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation. Help expose the truth about the tobacco industry.

Elizabeth Whelan is president and co-founder of the industry-friendly American Council on Science and Health.




Dr. Whelan does not have a medical degree. Her degrees are:[1]

  • 1971 Sc.D Harvard School of Public Health
  • 1968 M.S. Harvard School of Public Health
  • 1967 MPH Yale University School of Medicine


She stayed on after 1971 in the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health, as an Honorary Research Associate, which means that she was supported entirely by external grants, most from large corporations or trade associations. (citation needed)

In April 1973, she "accepted a freelance writing assignment from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer: they wanted a background paper on something called "the Delaney Clause""[2]

"That brief, isolated, assignment prompted me (on my own time, at my own expense) to write a book on the history of food scares: Panic in the Pantry." She asked her colleague - food, chemical and pharmacy industry-funded Dr. Frederick Stare - to write the preface; he became co-author, and the book was published in 1976.[2]

In 1975 Whelan and Stare began a long and highly profitable partnership - jointly writing a number of books and running a syndicated radio program, "Healthline". (citation needed)

Other affiliations

Whelan and AIHC

In October 1977, Elizabeth Whelan was working on scientific public relations for the Chemical Manufacturers Association while still retaining her position at Harvard. For CMA's offshoot SOCMA (Synthetic Organic Chemical Manfacturers Association) she began a new subsidiary organisation called the American Industrial Health Council (AIHC) which was nominally led by Paul E. Oreffice, President of Dow Chemical. This organisation coordinated industry responses to government regulations, and promoted a series of industry-set criteria for regulating potentially cancerous materials in the environment.

Whelan was judged to be highly successful in her political lobbying. However, the tobacco industry loathed her because she was deflecting all blame for chemically induced cancer rates to the more visible problem of smoking. [1]

These early scientific-manipulation activities of the chemical industry were part of an organised reaction to Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" published in 1962. The Chemical Manufacturer's Association (CMA) quickly realised that it must organise science and lobbying efforts; it had to discredit scientific research and attack the environmental activists if it were to maintain profits and keep free of government oversight and regulation.

For many years, most of the CMA's propaganda and lobbying was conducted through PR firm E. Bruce Harrison (taken over by Hill and Knowlton), but gradually the AIHC and ACSH took over and played a very important part, especially with the gullible media.

Also at this time, the chemical industry and the tobacco industry were trying to blame each other for the rapid increase in the rate of cancers. So the strategy adopted by the SOCMA and the AIHC was to blame tobacco smoke (correctly) as the major cause of cancer in smokers and non-smokers, while attempting to exonerate (incorrectly) environmental products like asbestos, preservatives and pesticides.

Whelan soon made herself a name as "consumer advocate" on radio and in the TV by vigorously attacking smoking and the tobacco industry. Very soon she was a television celebrity who was toasted by activist groups opposed to smoking. It was the perfect camouflage.

Quite probably she is a genuine anti-tobacco activist. But from 1973 she become a full-time partner with Stare in a number of enterprises, and she cannot have been unaware of his close connections to Seltzer and the tobacco industry, or his mentoring of tobacco scientists and his deals with chemical and food companies. Some of her Harvard School of Public Health associates worked virtually full time for the tobacco industry and appeared in public enquiries on behalf of the industry.

American Council on Science and Health

In mid 1978 Whelan and Stare founded the American Council on Science and Health, with Whelan taking the front position as "Executive Director" and Stare assuming the role of Deputy. He tended to keep his head down when she attacked the tobacco industry. Whelan's husband Steven provided the legal backup through his law firm, Thacher, Proffitt and Wood.

A number of professional science-lobbyists were coopted to form an "Advisory Council" for ACSH (they, presumably, were able to use their connections financially). Many more genuine, but gullible, scientists from around the world were suckered into joining as members by signing a "motherhood statement" about the need for "sound science". ACSH was funded by the same corporations which supported Stare's Nutrition Department for so many years -- and over time it became the model for Steve Milloy's notorious TASSC ("The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition") "scientific grassroots organisation" which differed only in the fact that it included tobacco lobbying, while being supported by the same corporate funders from chemicals and food industries. (Philip Morris had bought Kraft/General Foods and RJ Reynolds Tobacco had bought Nabisco).

Nader on ACSH

Almost the only group which did not accept ACSH as a genuine "association of concerned scientist" was Ralph Nader's Center for Science in the Public Interest which branded it "a consumer fraud" and an industry front group. They exposed the fact that its Advisory Board has many industry lobbyists, and that its reports were loaded with errors. However, the media has generally ignored these warnings and treated ACSH as a genuine scientific grassroots organisation until recently.

ACSH and Alar

Whelan and ACSH's reputation was made (and finances assured) mainly by her successful propaganda win over the activists in the Alar scare (a hormone sprayed on Apples). This campaign was funded $25,000 p.a. by Uniroyal (the manufacturer of Alar) and by most of the other SOCMA members, including Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Union Carbide, who made large contributions. Then in 1990 the apple and chemical industries filed a libel lawsuit against the activists over publicising Alar's dangers, and lost the suit. The court concluded that the scientific case against Alar was justified. Uniroyal itself later admitted the chemical was dangerous and voluntarily took it off the US market (but continued to sell it elsewhere).


Whelan is the author or co-author of over two dozen books mainly devoted to supporting the food and chemical industry by promoting the idea that fears about additives, colourings, and preservatives are the result of media sensationalism which has generated "cancerphobia":

  • Panic in the Pantry
  • Preventing Cancer
  • Toxic Terror
  • A Smoking Gun - How the Tobacco Industry Gets Away with Murder


American Council on Science and Health
1995 Broadway
Suite 202
New York, NY 10023-5882

Phone: (212) 362-7044
Fax: (212) 362-4919

E-mail: acsh at

External links

Articles by Whelan

  • Elizabeth Whelan, "Blackballing sections of the science community: The new US protocol that says scientists with corporate connections are unfit to judge drug safety smacks of modern-day McCarthyism", Spiked-online, April 1, 2005.
  • Elizabeth M. Whelan, "Are sodas the new cigarettes?", Washington Times, March 16, 2006.
  • Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, "Intellectual Conservative", Intellectual Conservative, May 31, 2006.

General Articles

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Elizabeth Whelan. ExxonSecrets. Retrieved on 2010-01-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Elizabeth Whelan (2004-04-29). Where Did ACSH Come From?. American Council on Science and Health. Retrieved on 2010-01-12. “A 25th Anniversary Commentary from Dr. Elizabeth Whelan President, Co-Founder American Council on Science and Health”
  3. Advisory Board, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, accessed September 19, 2008.
  4. Board of Advisors. National Youth Rights Association. Retrieved on 2010-01-12.
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