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Jeffrey Wigand became famous in the 1990s when he took public his knowledge that cigarette companies had tried to conceal the dangers of smoking.
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Born in New York City in 1942, former Brown and Williamson employee Jeffrey Wigand gained national fame in the 1990s as a tobacco industry whistleblower. In court, in the Wall Street Journal and on 60 minutes, Wigand took public his knowledge that tobacco companies had conducted extensive campaigns to conceal from the public their knowledge that that cigarette smoking was highly addictive and caused lung cancer.
I did what was right and have no regrets and would do it again.
Tobacco industry whistleblower. Jeffrey Wigand was born on December 17, 1942 in New York City, the eldest of five children growing up in a devoutly Catholic family in the Bronx, where his father worked as a mechanical engineer. Wigand's parents were strict disciplinarians who showed little outward affection toward their children. Wigand's brother James recalled, "I felt that my parents believed that children were more to be tolerated. I always had the feeling how much was being done for us, how much we owed for this opportunity!" The family moved to Pleasant Valley, a small town near Poughkeepsie in upstate New York, when Wigand was a teenager. A gifted student, particularly in chemistry and biology, Wigand dreamed of becoming a doctor. He attended Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie where he ran on the cross-country team and worked part-time as a scrub nurse at Vassar Brothers Hospital.
Then in 1961, after just one year of college, Wigand dropped out of college and joined the United States Air Force. "It was a rebellion to get away," Wigand's brother James explained. "My mother just about freaked out… but if you make someone so suppressed the anger kind of builds up." Wigand was assigned to Misawa, an American military base in Japan, where he ran an operating room and taught English while learning to speak fluent Japanese and earning a black belt in judo. He spent about a month in Vietnam but was not involved in any fighting there. "It was 1963, and nothing was going on," Jeffrey Wigand later remembered. After returning to the United States, Wigand went to the State University of New York at Buffalo to resume his education, receiving his B.A. in Chemistry, his M.A. in biochemistry and finally his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1973. While pursuing his graduate studies, Wigand met and fell in love with a legal secretary named Linda, and they married in 1971.
After receiving his doctorate, Wigand spent the next 17 years of his life working in the healthcare industry. His first job was as a researcher at the Boehringer Mannheim Corporation. He then moved on to the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer until, in 1976, he received a lucrative offer from Union Carbide to perform clinical trials on medical equipment in Japan. While Wigand excelled professionally during his time overseas, his relationship with his wife, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, deteriorated. She returned to the United States without him, and they divorced shortly after.
In the early 1980s, Wigand returned to the United States to work for the pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
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