There’s a moment near the end of the 1999 movie The Insider where Jeff Wigand is watching his whistle-blowing interview on 60 Minutes with his two daughters. During the interview, one of his daughters looks over at him and slowly smiles.
Between 1995 and 1996, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand lost his job, his house, his wife and for a time, his reputation – all in an effort to reveal the truth to the American public that the heads of the seven tobacco companies had lied to Congress when they testified that nicotine was not addictive, and that they never manipulated nicotine levels in cigarettes.
It’s been nine years since the release of The Insider, and more than twelve years since his 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace.
What’s happened to Jeff Wigand since then is an amazing follow-up story of its own.
Currently living in Michigan, Jeff is an on-going consultant to both the Dutch and Finnish governments in their litigation against the tobacco industry.
He has helped city officials in Kansas City, Missouri pass an ordinance to make Kansas City smoke-free. As a result, the cities of Springfield and St. Louis are looking into similar legislation.
Jeff has received numerous awards and public recognition for his action in revealing tobacco company research and marketing practices and he continues his efforts to reduce teen tobacco use through the non-profit organization, SMOKE-FREE KIDS, which advocates against the use of tobacco products to elementary, middle and high-school kids, as well as colleges and post-graduate institutions of law, medicine, business management and education throughout the United States.
In addition to providing educational seminars, SMOKE-FREE KIDS also provides scientific and technical input to governmental organizations developing policy or regulating tobacco products (denormalization) and creating smoke-free environments, such as the Country of Canada, the city of New York, The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, expert testimony can be provided in tobacco litigation to further hold the industry accountable for its targeting of our children.
Jeff uses his knowledge about the tobacco industry and his teaching experience to educate others about the myriad issues concerning tobacco and the tobacco industry. He teaches children critical thinking and analysis skills that enable them to make better decisions and healthy choices regarding tobacco use. And he teaches adult students and policy makers about medical, scientific and technical aspects of tobacco science and chemistry.
When I interviewed him for a segment in my book, What Do You Stand For?, I asked him what motivated him to come forward. One day, he said, his young daughters asked why he worked for a tobacco company. He began asking himself that question which ultimately led to his very public disclosures.
I then asked, “Given the terrible personal consequences, would you do it again; would you still come forward with what you knew?
“In a heartbeat,” he said. “I have no rancor or regrets. I did what I thought was right and would do it again. Each of us should realize that we can make a difference.”
In that scene from The Insider, where he and his young daughters are watching his “60 Minutes” interview, we see Jeff Wigand, the father, look at his daughters. At that moment, one of his daughters turns towards him and smiles. It was in that moment that she recognized that her father was a hero.
To learn more about Jeff and Smoke-Free Kids, go towww.jeffreywigand.com.