In the late 1980s Jeffery Wigand joined the tobacco industry with aspirations of creating a safer cigarette for smokers around the world. While working on this project he became Vice President for Research and Development for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation from December 1988 to March 1993.
Eventually Wigands' Project was scrapped. After five years of Vice President for research and development, Wiggins had become acutely aware of the inner workings of the tobacco industry.
Feeling he was becoming part of the problem, Wigand sent a memo to his boss outlining his concerns that he had never seen such corporate duplicity . As a result, Wigind was fired for difficulties in communication in March 1993.
For a while Wigand did not come forward with his knowledge about the tobacco companies. Then he saw tobacco executives including Tommy Sandefur, his ex-boss, testifing to Congress that nicotine was not addictive. Wigand was convinced he had to do something and began talking it to the FDA.
He made the truth known to the public about the industry's disregard for health and safety during an interview with 60 minutes which he was compelled to give in an action against the tobacco companies.
Wigand outlined how the company misled consumers about the highly addictive nature of nicotine, how it ignored research indicating that some of the additives used to improve flavor caused cancer, and how it encoded and hid documents that could be used against the company in lawsuits brought by sick or dying smokers.
Wigand endured death threats against him and his family and a campaign by the tobacco companies to ruin him. His wife divorced him, and his two daughters left him to live with their mother. Wigind was distraught but felt a greater urge to press on.
Wignad went on to help the FDA gather thousands of pages of explicit evidence that cigarettes were nothing more then drug delivery devices and eventually delivered a damning deposition in court that eventually led to the tobacco industry's $246 billion litigation settlement.
In the days since his $300,000-a-year job at Brown and Williamson, Wigand has become a candid anti-tobacco advocate.
Ever since "The Insider" came out in 1999, Wigand has been in demand. He speaks at dozens of schools a year, from elementary schools to business schools.
He urges physicians to chart their patients' smoking habits and lobbies Hollywood types to eliminate smoking in films. Some groups cover travel expenses only, others pay his $10,000 speaker's fee, which funds a nonprofit organization he started called "Smoke-Free Kids".