Business

Philip J. Hilts, 74, Dies; Reporter Exposed a Big-Tobacco Cover-up


Philip J. Hilts, who as a science reporter for The New York Instances in 1994 uncovered a tobacco firm’s decades-long cover-up of its personal analysis displaying that tobacco was dangerous and nicotine was addictive, died on April 23 in Lebanon, N.H. He was 74.

The trigger was problems of liver illness, his son Ben mentioned.

Mr. Hilts was a longtime journalist, writing for The Instances, The Washington Publish and different publications, and was the writer of six nonfiction books on scientific, medical and social matters.

His work on tobacco made headlines not solely in The Instances but additionally throughout the nation. In 1994, he obtained internal documents displaying that executives of the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company have been fighting whether or not to speak in confidence to the surgeon basic what they knew in 1963 in regards to the hazards of smoking; their very own analysis confirmed that cigarettes have been addictive and brought on lung most cancers or predisposed individuals to it.

The Brown & Williamson executives, Mr. Hilts wrote, “chose to remain silent, to keep their research results secret, to stop work on a safer cigarette and to pursue a legal and public relations strategy of admitting nothing.”

Mr. Hilts’s article, on the entrance web page of The Instances, appeared a month after high executives of the seven largest American tobacco corporations testified before Congress that nicotine was not addictive. Two years later, they have been all below federal investigation for probably mendacity below oath and have been no longer main their corporations.

The Justice Division finally dropped its criminal investigation into whether or not the executives had perjured themselves. However in 1998, 4 tobacco corporations and 46 states reached what was the largest civil litigation settlement in American history, with the businesses agreeing to pay the states $206 billion over 25 years. Hundreds of thousands of inside firm paperwork of the kind that Mr. Hilts and different information organizations had relied on have been made public within the course of.

Mr. Hilts additionally broke main tales about breast implants, contraceptives and deceit within the beauty machine business. He was among the many first reporters to cowl the AIDS epidemic.

An adventurous kind — he was a scuba diver and world traveler — he wrote a dispatch from an energetic volcano a mile beneath the Pacific Ocean. He lined the confessions of a healer in Zambia who claimed to be “curing” AIDS. And he examined a law-enforcement observe of utilizing hypnosis to “refresh” the recollections of witnesses; his findings of problems with hypnosis led to the discharge of 4 males from jail.

Most lately, he served as director of the Knight Science Journalism Program on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise, from 2008 to 2014.

His books embody “Smokescreen: The Truth Behind the Tobacco Industry Cover-Up” (1996), which examined the business’s 40-year disinformation marketing campaign on cigarette smoking; “Protecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business and One Hundred Years of Regulation” (2003), a historical past of the Meals and Drug Administration; and “Rx for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge” (2005), during which he described how rich nations will help combat the specter of new and resurgent outbreaks of illness around the globe.

Philip James Hilts was born on Could 10, 1947, in Chicago. His father, Edward, was a nonfiction author who additionally wrote historic fiction for kids. His mom, Katherine (Bonn) Hilts, labored at a Sears retailer in a number of departments, together with as a switchboard operator.

Philip was one in all seven kids and grew up primarily in Hinsdale, Sick., a suburb west of Chicago.

After highschool, he served briefly within the service provider marine earlier than attending Georgetown College in Washington, from 1965 to 1967. He then dropped out and hitchhiked to San Francisco to take part within the “Summer of Love,” when the hippie and counterculture actions have been in full bloom.

He returned to Georgetown in 1969 however by no means graduated, deciding as an alternative to take up journalism. He undertook quick stints as a reporter and photographer at small suburban newspapers and at The Washington Day by day Information in Washington, D.C., and The Rocky Mountain Information in Denver earlier than changing into a contract journal author.

He joined The Washington Publish as a workers author within the Eighties, taking day out for a Nieman fellowship at Harvard from 1984-85. He moved over to The Instances’s Washington bureau in 1989 as a workers author till 1996, when he grew to become a contract author till 2002.

Mr. Hilts obtained a number of journalism fellowships, together with one which despatched him to Botswana, the place he taught journalism. Most of his fellowships have been dedicated to science writing.

He married Mary Donna McKeown, a fellow reporter at The Washington Day by day Information, in 1974; she died in 1987. In 1993, he married Carisa Cunningham, who on the time labored for nonprofit AIDS organizations; they divorced in 2011. He married Una MacDowell, who was a researcher in math and science training, in 2013. They lived in Cambridge, Mass., and Rochester, Vt. He died in a hospital.

Along with his spouse and his son Ben, he’s survived by one other son, Sean; two daughters, Alexis and Kate Hilts; a grandson; 4 brothers, Edward, Paul, Michael and Mark; two sisters, Jeanne Younger and Elizabeth Hilts; and two kids from his spouse’s first marriage, William and Nora MacDowell Coon.

At his dying, Mr. Hilts was ending a guide about Lynn Margulis, a biologist whose analysis into the origin of cells helped remodel the examine of evolution, and who was married for a time to the astronomer Carl Sagan.



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