THE INSIDER

Former tobacco executive depicted in the movie The Insider Jeffrey Wigand will share story today.

Former tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand didn't start smoking until he began working for Brown & Williamson Tobacco in 1988. Seven years later, he became the highest-ranking executive to go public with his knowledge of the tobacco industry.

In a statement on his Web site, Wigand states: "I am honored that people think I am a hero, but I do not accept that moniker as others are much more deserving of it. I did what was right...have no regrets and would do it again. As you see, we were just ordinary people placed in some extraordinary situations and did the right thing...as all should do."

As the central figure in the great social chronicle of the tobacco wars, Wigand will share his story at 6 tonight in the Forum Tent as part of the week's UniverCity keynote speakers.

Judy Elton, assistant to the director of UniverCity, said Wigand's visit to the Ball State campus and Muncie community will mark his newest crusade as an advocator for smoke-free children.

Wigand will also speak at several Muncie community schools.

"He has agreed and is willing to go out into the Muncie city schools," Elton said. "He's taking that message of more than just 'don't smoke,' but 'what smoke can do to you' message."

Portrayed by Russell Crowe in 1999's "The Insider," Wigand's story was re-told based off the Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much," by Marie Brenner, published in May1996.

In the midst of Wigand's campaign, he experienced the horrors of a public relations campaign orchestrated against him by B&W at the time of Brenner's research for the extensive article.

According to www.tobacco.org, Wigand's life took a turn at age 52 in 1993. He lost his job as vice president for research and development at B&W, where he was earning approximately $400,000 a year, and became a science and Japanese teacher at duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky.

During his work with B&W, Wigand began working on making a safer cigarette while investigating the effect of nicotine in tobacco products.

With time, he discovered the hidden aspects of the company. Wigand soon learned that "increased biological activity" in reports was code for cancer and other diseases.

Wigand was approached by "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman in an attempt to decipher documents on the tobacco industry that had been mysteriously left on Bergman's doorstep.

After Bergman persuaded Wigand to tell his own story, he revealed the industry's disregard for health and safety in 1995.

Putting himself in the public's scrutiny, Wigand also jeopardized his marriage and own life. Wigand and his family received death threats.

"The fact that he had enough courage - Here's a man that was the vice president, quit his job and went to the authorities," Elton said. "He went to the FDA and testified and that right there, if that's not inspirational enough - I think that he can have a very powerful effect."

Elton said Wigand's visit will reach an audience that is at a powerful age where the decision to smoke is made.

"I don't think he's going to stand up there and talk about statistics and mortality rates," Elton said. "He's going to talk about exactly what the tobacco companies do - what they put in it, how they market it, who they market it to, why they do it that way, and why they won't tell the truth about what's in it.

"I think that everybody always says that same thing 'It can't happen to me,' 'I don't smoke that much' or 'I haven't been smoking very long. Even if you've made that choice to smoke, I think you might, after hearing Dr. Wigand, think twice about what you're doing."


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