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The botheration adverse cigarette manufacturers decades ago complex adverse deaths and bad publicity, but it had annihilation to do with cancer. It had to do with abode fires.

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Smoldering cigarettes were sparking fires and killing people. And tobacco admiral didn’t affliction for one accessible solution: actualize a “fire-safe” cigarette, one beneath acceptable to alpha a blaze.

The industry insisted it couldn’t accomplish a fire-safe cigarette that would still address to smokers and instead acknowledgment bonfire retardant appliance — alive absorption to the couches and chairs that were activity up in flames.

But admiral accomplished they lacked credibility, abnormally aback bake victims and firefighters were blame for changes to cigarettes.

So Big Tobacco launched an advancing and cunning attack to “neutralize” firefighting organizations and actuate these far added trusted groups to accept tobacco’s account as their own. The industry caked millions of dollars into the effort, doling out grants to bonfire groups and hiring consultants to cloister them.

These cardinal investments admired cigarette admiral to groups they alleged their “fire account friends.”

“To accord us clout, to accord us power, to accord us credibility, to accord us leverage, to accord us admission area we don’t frequently accept admission ourselves — those are the kinds of things that we’re attractive for,” a Philip Morris controlling told his aeon in a 1984 training affair on this strategy.

The tobacco industry’s better prize? The Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals, which represented the No. 1 bonfire admiral in anniversary state.

A above tobacco executive, Peter Sparber, helped adapt the group, afresh steered its civic agenda. He shaped its requests for federal rules acute bonfire retardant appliance and fed the marshals tobacco’s arguments for why altering appliance was a added able way to anticipate fires than altering cigarettes.

For years, the tobacco industry paid Sparber for what the marshals afield anticipation was advance work.

The Tribune apparent capacity about Big Tobacco’s backstairs attack active amid the 13 actor abstracts cigarette admiral fabricated accessible afterwards clearing lawsuits that recouped the bulk of alleviative ailing smokers. These centralized memos, speeches and cardinal diplomacy acknowledge the hasty and affecting role of Big Tobacco in the accretion of baneful chemicals in American furniture.

This able abetment set the date for a agnate attack of baloney and misdirection by the actinic industry that continues to this day.

Andrew McGuire, a bake survivor and MacArthur “genius grant” winner, said Sparber and the Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals for years were his nemeses as he has pushed for fire-safe cigarettes, which would stop afire aback not actuality smoked. McGuire came up adjoin them afresh aback he battled for reductions in the bulk of bonfire retardant chemicals in Americans’ homes.

“He played them like a Stradivarius,” McGuire said of Sparber’s accord with the bonfire marshals.

A founding affiliate of the bonfire marshals accumulation disputes that they were disproportionately influenced, but he said he abjure that the alignment accustomed tobacco’s money.

“There is no way you can explain to the accessible that demography money from the tobacco industry is a acceptable thing,” said Tom Brace, who served as a align in Minnesota and Washington state. “And had I to do that over again, I would not do that.”

Brace and the bonfire marshals accumulation generally were at allowance with colleagues in the firefighting affiliation who formed to calibration aback the use of assertive bonfire retardants afterwards studies showed they can accomplish smoke added toxic.

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The bonfire marshals alignment affiliated announcement bonfire retardant articles alike afterwards it was bright that the chemicals central were escaping, clearing in dust and ambagious up in the bodies of babies and adults worldwide.

The marshals affiliated alike afterwards bonfire retardants were affiliated to cancer, acoustic deficits, adorning problems and broken fertility.

And they affiliated alike afterwards government scientists showed that bonfire retardants in domiciliary appliance were not attention Americans from bonfire in any allusive way.

Wooing the marshals

With the top admiral of the better U.S. cigarette companies aggregate in a New York ballroom, Charles Powers rose to address that their barter group’s multimillion-dollar advance in the firefighting affiliation was advantageous off nicely.

It was October 1989, and the CEOs abaft Marlboro, Camel and added above brands were in a closed-door affair of the controlling lath of the Tobacco Institute, the barter accumulation that fought legislation that could aching their business.

Powers acclaimed that abounding bonfire admiral who already were adverse were acknowledging industry positions in key federal and accompaniment aldermanic battles over fire-safe cigarettes. The action by the Tobacco Convention of acceptable over these officials, including some accompaniment bonfire marshals, with grants and schmoozing was working.

“Though our abetment is ‘no strings attached’ for everyone, it is no blow that the bonfire account admiral best absorbed in our educational abstracts are additionally the bonfire account leaders whom we accept approached for endorsements,” said Powers, a top controlling at the Tobacco Institute.

He boasted: “Many of our above adversaries in the bonfire account avert us, abutment us and backpack alternating our federal legislation as their own.”

Much of that success can be attributed to the actuality that Big Tobacco had buried an central man aural the firefighting community.

A above Tobacco Convention carnality president, Peter Sparber had spent years at the barter accumulation doling out money to firefighting groups. He larboard to accessible his own lobbying and accessible diplomacy aing in the backward 1980s but retained the Tobacco Convention as a above client.

This arm’s-length accord — alive for Big Tobacco but accepting a business calendar that said “Sparber and Associates Inc.” — accustomed him to access an alignment of accessible admiral that became what the Tobacco Convention afterwards alleged “the best politically almighty group” in the firefighting community: the nation’s accompaniment bonfire marshals.

These taxpayer-funded employees, about appointed by governors, had a low contour nationally until Sparber came along. In 1989, Sparber helped adapt the Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals and volunteered to be the group’s aldermanic consultant. The bonfire marshals put him on their controlling board.

Sparber became so acute to the bonfire marshals that they listed him on their affiliation card and for added than a decade aggregate a Washington appointment with him.

One of the marshals’ aboriginal official acts was to endorse a tobacco-backed federal bill that alleged for yet addition abstraction of fire-safe cigarettes rather than a advancing bill that would accept bound appropriate cigarettes to change.

Like his tobacco industry patrons, Sparber formed to anticipate a authorization for fire-safe cigarettes by alive the focus to furniture.

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For years, Sparber acknowledgment an abstruse California accompaniment aphorism on appliance flammability, one that manufacturers met by abacus bonfire retardant chemicals to the cream in sofas and accessible chairs.

California regulators had allowable the aphorism in 1975 out of annoyance that too abounding affiliation were dying in fires acquired by cigarettes. Accompaniment and federal assembly had approved abominably aback the 1920s to achieve fire-safe cigarette requirements, so California regulators instead approved to fireproof the apple about the cigarette.

With Sparber’s help, the bonfire marshals in 1992 approved federal rules for bonfire retardant furniture, and Sparber went on to represent the marshals in years of affairs with the U.S. Consumer Product Assurance Commission. His amount letters appearance that for several years he was announcement the Tobacco Convention $200 an hour for his assignment with the marshals, including time he spent on the marshals’ address for bonfire retardant furniture.

Sparber appear to the convention on the bonfire marshals’ key activities and alike anesthetized alternating their centralized documents. Tobacco Convention Admiral Samuel Chilcote Jr., in turn, beatific abundant memos to the CEOs of cigarette companies about the marshals’ activities.

Chilcote beneath to animadversion to the Tribune, adage he couldn’t anamnesis what happened so continued ago.

Brace, a architect of the bonfire marshals group, said he knew Sparber was a above Tobacco Convention executive. But Brace said he didn’t apperceive in the association’s aboriginal canicule that the convention was advantageous Sparber for his assignment with the marshals and didn’t apperceive that Sparber funneled so abounding of the marshals’ centralized abstracts to the cigarette industry.

Nevertheless, Brace said the marshals fabricated their own decisions.

“The inference that the accompaniment bonfire marshals sitting about the table are calmly led by this Svengali — there were arguments aback and alternating of what we should get complex in,” Brace said in an interview. “We had some hot debates. But the assuming that Sparber led us out of the wilderness, I don’t see it.”

But annal in tobacco executives’ files appearance that Sparber helped set the bonfire marshals’ agenda, suggesting who should allege at a key conference, which consultants they should absorb and why they should argue advancing fire-safe cigarette requirements.

He additionally assisted the bonfire marshals with fundraising, nudging tobacco colleagues to accord to the group.

Too aing for comfort

Assisting Sparber was an old fan: Karen Deppa.

Deppa had caked Sparber’s acceptability in the apple of circuit when, in a antecedent job as a journalist, she bound a aglow contour of Sparber for a annual aimed at barter affiliation executives. The adventure declared him as a adept of crisis administration whom others could emulate, acquainted the able way he had positioned smoker as a axiological abandon and casting agnosticism on studies documenting the bloom hazards of smoking.

“I go home to my ancestors every night, and not already accept I acquainted afflictive about adverse them over annihilation I’ve done at work,” Sparber said in that article.

Aural a year of the publication, the Tobacco Convention assassin Deppa and fabricated her the coordinator of its bonfire program. Annal appearance she frequently active off on Sparber’s alternate billings for his assignment with the marshals.

Deppa ensured the Tobacco Convention comfortable the marshals — faced with angular accompaniment budgets — with allowances at the group’s conferences, including bottles of wine, a accommodation apartment and chargeless abundance bike rentals, annal show. She apprenticed the convention to armamentarium a media-training academy for the marshals, suggesting this would accomplish them added assured speakers as they about discussed fire-safe cigarettes and added issues.

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The bonfire marshals anguish up application tobacco’s talking credibility in the industry’s abiding adjournment game.

Aback leaders of the marshals affiliation addressed federal regulators, they would say they accurate the abstraction of a civic fire-safe cigarette requirement. But in the aing breath, the marshals would bother the analysis methods federal scientists created to actuate which cigarettes were beneath acceptable to account fires.

Tobacco admiral abominable those tests. Publicly, they argued that the tests bootless to carbon “real world” conditions. Privately, they feared the tests would pave the way for laws that would force them to adapt cigarettes — articles that fabricated them billions of dollars anniversary year — in means that their barter wouldn’t like, annal show. Some prototypes had an abhorrent aftertaste or were difficult to smoke.

An centralized R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. address acclaimed that the abridgement of a accepted analysis adjustment had served to adjournment the acceptance of fire-safe cigarette bills in 12 states.

The marshals’ criticisms of the capacity of the tests were beeline from Big Tobacco’s playbook. This wasn’t a coincidence. Questioned by a government scientist at a affair of the federal console crafting the tests, one align accustomed that Sparber had a him on the issues, annal show.

“They abstruse actual bound from their boob masters how to ability the arguments to assume reasonable but account delay,” recalled McGuire, the bake survivor, who was a affiliate of the console and was at that meeting.

David Sutton, a agent for Philip Morris USA, alone the angle that his aggregation and the bonfire marshals formed calm to adjournment fire-safe cigarette rules. For added than a decade, he said, the aggregation formed adamantine to advance bankable cigarettes that were added acceptable to extinguish on their own.

Philip Morris collaborated with the marshals on bonfire retardant appliance standards in the aboriginal 1990s, he said, because the aggregation believed those ability present “a potentially added able another for bigger bonfire safety.”

By 1993, annal show, the bonfire marshals were so angrily against to fire-safe cigarette analysis proposals — and so financially and philosophically affiliated to the cigarette industry — that a top Philip Morris lobbyist told the Tobacco Convention she feared that the marshals had absolutely become a liability. Annal appearance she told colleagues she anticipation the Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals was “tainted.”

The lobbyist afraid that “the accord of the industry — abnormally Philip Morris — to the Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals (NASFM) may eventually be appear publicly.” She appropriate to the Tobacco Convention that the bonfire marshals stop discussing fire-safe cigarettes and focus alone on appliance flammability standards.

But the industry didn’t bisect ties, in allotment because added cigarette admiral anticipation they bare the marshals to adverse fire-service groups that were blame for fire-safe cigarette laws, annal show.

A key bender in R.J. Reynolds’ 1996 cardinal plan to action these laws was the marshals’ address to the Consumer Product Assurance Commission for bonfire retardant appliance rules. A handwritten calendar on the aboriginal folio directs an R.J. Reynolds agent to book the plan beneath “Fire Safe Sparber.”

The plan acclimated italics to bang home the coercion of absorption on the appliance fueling fires, not the cigarettes igniting them: “In 1996, bonfire admiral charge accumulate the burden on the Commission to focus on the fuels rather than agitation sources.”

Playing ‘hardball’

The bonfire marshals’ accomplishments helped Big Tobacco bulwark off fire-safe requirements for years. But the delays couldn’t go on forever.

The Tobacco Convention shut bottomward in 1999, a claim of the multibillion-dollar cloister adjustment amid the industry and accompaniment attorneys general. Not continued afterwards that, states succeeded in casual rules acute fire-safe cigarettes, so tobacco no best had an allurement to advance bonfire retardant furniture.

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But by afresh Sparber had begin new audience with problems of their own: actinic manufacturers.

With anniversary casual year, bloom apropos were growing as the best frequently acclimated types of bonfire retardants were apparent in animal milk and blood.

As Sparber formed to bottle and alike aggrandize the bazaar for bonfire retardants, the bonfire marshals were afresh at his side. So was Deppa, whom he had assassin from the Tobacco Institute.

So intertwined were Sparber, the actinic companies and the bonfire marshals that alike Sparber couldn’t consistently differentiate area the agendas diverged.

For instance, one of Sparber’s audience as a lobbyist was the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, an all-embracing barter accumulation apery ample manufacturers of bonfire retardants. Sparber appear to federal regulators in 1999 that although the appointment was advantageous his company’s fees, the actinic group’s goals for bonfire blockage were so accumbent with those of the bonfire marshals affiliation that he generally lobbied for both groups on the aforementioned matters.

Chemtura Corp.,Albemarle Corp.and ICL Industrial Articles — the three better companies that armamentarium the bromine appointment — beneath to acknowledgment questions about their relationships with Sparber or the bonfire marshals. Chemtura and Albemarle said their bonfire retardants are safe and finer assure bodies and acreage from fires.

Brace, the above marshal, accepted that his affiliation became “heavily involved” with the bonfire retardant barter accumulation and accurate its agenda. He said he formed with the appointment because of his admiration to save lives, and he was careful of studies that affiliated the chemicals to bloom problems.

The bromine group, Brace said, paid for him to go to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, area he apprenticed electronics manufacturers to add bonfire retardants to the artificial exteriors of computer monitors and televisions. The marshals afterwards pushed for common standards acute that the artificial casings of electronics abide a candle bonfire and acquaint Internet videos comparing name-brand computer monitors that went up in bonfire with those that didn’t.

John Dean, the bonfire marshals’ admiral from 2006 to 2008, said that during his time the marshals were not actuality affected by actinic companies and did not focus alone on bonfire retardants. “The bonfire marshals were anxious about preventing fires, and we didn’t absolutely affliction how they did it,” said Dean, a retired accompaniment bonfire align from Maine.

But the marshals did columnist for civic appliance flammability rules that would accept added the use of bonfire retardant cream in the U.S., alike admitting federal scientists had assured that this blazon of chemically advised cream didn’t accommodate any allusive aegis in fires.

To amplitude legislators and opponents, the marshals and Sparber characterized couches and accessible chairs as dangers to society, sometimes apropos to the cream central cushions as “solid gasoline.”

While Sparber was a registered lobbyist for Chemtura and its predecessor, Great Lakes Actinic Corp., the bonfire marshals asked federal regulators to crave admonishing labels on appliance fabricated with non-fire-retardant cream and approved a “hazardous material” appellation for this blazon of foam.

In 2007, Sparber emailed admiral at Chemtura and Albemarle about his efforts to get appliance food declared “hazardous occupancies,” a allocation usually aloof for locations administration gasoline and added awful burnable materials.

Such a designation, Sparber wrote, “threatens to shut bottomward any cardinal of retailers,” absolute the cardinal of sofas they could abundance or force them to install all-encompassing sprinkler systems.

“Literally,” he wrote, “a distinct exclusive couch ability beat the limit.”

The goal, Sparber wrote, was to accomplish appliance manufacturers and retailers abhorrence these “obviously callous consequences” and thereby abutment austere flammability standards or face the acrimony of cipher administration officials.

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“This is hardball of the aboriginal order,” Sparber wrote.

While these rules weren’t adopted, the alarming bulletin hit a assumption with the industries Sparber threatened. Joseph Gerard, a retired appliance industry lobbyist, said he recalls Sparber sending him an inches-thick adhesive abounding with copies of the aforementioned Associated Columnist adventure abrupt from newspapers beyond the country. The adventure abhorrent the afterlife of a South Carolina jailbait on sofas that lacked bonfire retardants and quoted a bonfire align about the charge for the chemicals.

Gerard said of Sparber: “His way of operating was so offensive, it aloof tore at me.”

To the bonfire marshals, though, Sparber was a hero. The Civic Affiliation of Accompaniment Bonfire Marshals gave him its Hall of Fame accolade in 2008.

Sparber and Deppa beneath to animadversion for this story.

Jim Narva, the bonfire marshals’ accepted controlling director, said Sparber has not represented the accumulation for “a cardinal of years” and that he took over Sparber’s Washington appointment in 2008 or 2009.

“It’s history,” Narva said.

The marshals’ action account on bonfire retardants, which hasn’t been adapted aback 2008, says articles that abide to action fires should not be banned unless there is “significant evidence” that they account abuse or until added methods of bonfire aegis are begin to alter them.

Narva, who beneath to acknowledgment abundant questions, said the bonfire marshals are not currently complex with bonfire retardant issues.

But the marshals’ industry ties abide strong.

Deppa larboard Sparber and Associates in 2008 and, according to the marshals’ website, became the group’s “liaison to US government agencies and their staffs.”

The marshals aloof aftermost year helped defeat a acute bill in California that would accept bargain bonfire retardants in articles nationwide. The association’s admiral at the time wrote a letter opposing the legislation. A lobbyist for the Citizens for Bonfire Assurance Institute, a advanced accumulation for the better makers of bonfire retardants, apprehend excerpts of the letter at the audition area the bill was voted down.

And who charcoal a banking sponsor of the bonfire marshals, with its logo on the group’s home page?

Chemtura, one of the world’s better producers of bonfire retardants.

Tribune anchorman Michael Hawthorne contributed to this report.

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