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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


5.28.2004

Guildford Archiving Project 

Dilligent watchdogs have preserved over 8 million documents smuggled out of the Guildford depository - a secured archive of British American Tobacco, one of the largest tobacco manufacturers in the world, selling cigarettes to 180 countries. The depository is a public archive mandated by a 1998 settlement, but researchers argue that BAT has made it very difficult for individuals to gain access to the files, and also that it maintains files on those that use the resource.

Now liberated,the documents will be made publiclly available on a university website to remind people that, not only are they killing themselves and polluting the planet, but they are feeding a murderous corporate empire of drug pushers.
The four-year operation, called the Guildford Archiving Project, was revealed yesterday and has involved researchers from London, New York and San Francisco and cost almost £2m - funded by a group of medical charities including the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and the American Heart Association.

Although most of the documents have still to be examined, important insights into the working of the tobacco industry have been gained. According to the researchers, an audio tape proposed that BAT market a "cheap cigarette" to "dirt poor little black farmers"... One, discussing marketing to "illiterate low income 16-year-olds", was changed to include the less controversial age of 18.

The collection dates from the company's origins in the early 1900s up to 1995 and is recognised as an invaluable resource detailing how the tobacco industry has operated in the past and its plans for expanding into new markets. But, according to researchers, 181 files containing 36,000 pages appear to have gone missing since the depository opened in January 2000.

Visitorsmust ring a bell to gain admittance and are then led upstairs to the viewing room where, after being signed in, they can order files from an index held on two computers. Three security cameras are trained on them and the BAT staff who operate the depository sit behind a one-way mirror at the end of the room. The files must be searched manually and there are no photocopying facilities. Orders for copies take more than a year to process.

The company has gathered intelligence on visitors. Richard Hurt, from the Mayo Clinic in New York, writing in The Lancet today, said: "Depository visitor reports show that BAT apparently tracked the database searches of a visitor. The company also tracked the physical movement of visitors and, in at least one instance, noted the personal mobile phone use of a visitor."

Tobacco researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who have led the operation to copy and scan the documents to make them available on the web, said: "The documents have proved vital to revealing the underhand tactics used by BAT to sell its cigarettes around the world and to undermine public health efforts to reduce their devastating health impact." One document setting out BAT's five-year plan from 1994-98 apparently explains the scale and importance of smuggling to the company's global operations. It says 6 per cent of world cigarette sales in 1993 were "DNP" (duty not paid - i.e. smuggled), with the highest rates in eastern Europe (13 per cent of total sales) and Africa (12 per cent) followed by Latin America (9 per cent) and Western Europe (7 per cent).

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