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Mold, James Davis, Ph.D.

(LM Asst. Research Director) [Summary by Anne Landman 2003-09-25] Went to work as a scientist for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. in 1955resigned in 1979. (MNAT007267450) (N.M., L & M Liability Notebook, Section 3, Personnel List) He was an Assistant Research Director for Liggett & Myers, Inc. until 1979. He was assigned to identify the ingredients in cigarette smoke that caused cancer in mice. For 25 years, Mold worked on a project to develop a safer cigarette. By 1980, he had developed a cigarette that would be safe to smoke. Mold concluded that cigarette smoking contributed to lung cancer in human beings. Mold has knowledge of the health hazards of tobacco products and the suppression of research and development by the tobacco industry. (ABC Primetime Live 02/25/93) James David Mold was Head of Liggett & Meyers Organic Chemical Research. (PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996) James Mold was a scientist for Liggett & Myers in 1955. Address: Durham, NC. He went to work for Liggett in 1955 and he was assigned to identify the ingredients in cigarette smoke that caused cancer in lab mice. They found what the materials present that were causing the cancers on mice skin. The company Executives said "go ahead" to see if a safer cigarette could be developed. Dr. Mold spent 25 years working on the "XA" project developing a different cigarette, specially treated with chemicals that caused no cancer in lab animals. By 1980 he had developed a cigarette that would be safe to smoke. When the XA cigarettes were finally ready for production and marketing in 1978, company lawyers stepped in and scuttled the project. The legal department was afraid that putting out such a cigarette would hurt their courtroom defenses (ABC Primetime Live 2/25/93). Dr. James Mold, while an assistant research director at Liggett in the late 1950s or early 1960s concluded that cigarette smoking contributed to the incidence of lung cancer in human beings. Mold has admitted that CTR's research efforts were not directed to resolving the smoking and health issues and that Liggett Executives did not permit him to publish information about the Liggett/A.D. Little mouse painting experiments, which confirmed that the contents of cigarette smoke caused cancer (Allman complaint, p. 49). Scientists and consultants for Liggett Group Inc. poured more than 20 years into developing a catalyst--made of palladium and magnesium nitrate--that purportedly destroyed cancer-causing compounds in cigarette smoke, according to testimony in a New Jersey wrongful-death case [Cipollone? Haines?] (LAT 7/19/94), Bmt. Project TAME, as it was known inside the company, was abandoned about 1979 because of litigation fears, according to testimony [in Cipollone] by Liggett's former assistant research director, James D. Mold (LAT 7/19/94). According to Mold, "They felt that such a cigarette, if put on the market, would seriously indict them for having sold other types of cigarettes", in a deposition, Mold said that he was forbidden by Liggett to publish his research on the subject (LAT 7/19/94). See Mold, Thomas Dr., TTLA Almanac - Names. See Personnel List Part 1: Presumed -Pro-Plaintiff, also TTLA Almanac - Names. Testified in Cippollone. Died 2002.

Biographical Information [Peter Morris 2009-02-18]:
James Mold was an organic chemist who began working for Liggett & Myers in 1955 and spent more than twenty years trying to develop a cigarette with reduced levels of tar and nicotine. But when his efforts yielded a palladium-catalyzed cigarette, he found the company reluctant to market the brand. Mold ended up resigning from Liggett in 1979 and would ultimately testify as a witness for the plaintiffs in the Cipollone case.

James Davis Mold was born in Minnesota, on September 26, 1920, the second child of Patten Davis Mold, a draftsman and civil engineer for the state highway department, and his wife, the former Irene Reed. The family was living in the small town of Harris, Minnesota, when Mold’s only sibling Daisy was born in 1916, but by 1918 they had moved to St. Paul and when the 1920 Census was taken they were living in Carlton. Eventually the Molds settled in Duluth where James Mold grew up.

Mold followed his older sister to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a bachelor of chemistry degree in 1942. He then pursued graduate studies at Northwestern University, where he earned a master of science and a doctorate in organic chemistry. Upon graduation, he went to work for Parke-Davis and spent a couple of years conducting antibiotic isolation research. Mold next joined the Army Chemical Corps, where his research involved paralytic shellfish poison. Around 1954, he learned that the shellfish project was to come to an end and he began looking around for new employment.

At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Mold was interviewed by Frederick Darkis, the director of research at Liggett & Myers, about a position with the tobacco manufacturer. When the interview led to a job offer, James Mold faced a difficult dilemma. He was a nonsmoker who had been closely following research on the health risks of cigarettes, especially Ernst Wynder’s recent mouse-skin-painting study, and he was inclined to believe that smoking did cause disease. Yet he also believed that accepting a position at Liggett & Myers would enable him to do great good. His master’s degree had involved pyrolysis, while his research at both Parke-Davis and the Army Chemical Corps necessitated isolating chemical compounds. As such, James Mold became convinced that his background would make him ideally suited to determining the specific chemical processes that were making cigarettes hazardous and to find a solution.

So he accepted a position as supervisor of organic chemistry and was given a broad mandate – as Mold would later describe it, “my task at the outset” was “to first find out if there really was something there that would produce cancer. Second, where does it come from and can you eliminate the source of it.” To do this, Mold began by working with Arthur D. Little to recreate Wynder’s mouse-skin research. When the study was complete, the findings were sent to the Surgeon General’s office and were cited in the landmark 1964 report. But when Mold asked Darkis for permission to publish the results, his request was denied. It was the first in a series of conflicts that would ultimately alienate Mold from his employer.

For the time being, however, Mold forged ahead with his aim of putting the knowledge he had gained from the mouse-skin-painting study into designing a safer cigarette. He had now become assistant director of research and focused his energies on the painstaking work of testing more than two hundred potential additives to see if they would reduce or eliminate the chemical interactions that he believed responsible for the health hazards. His research was also gaining increased urgency from the wealth of new research on smoking and health, all of which led him to conclude that the link between smoking and disease had become “rather definitive.”

Eventually Mold concluded that a palladium-catalyzed cigarette would be the best solution. He conducted extensive testing to support his hypothesis and the results were encouraging. Liggett obtained patents for the palladium and nitric oxide-generating materials that Mold designed and for the related design innovations created by other company scientists. By the mid-1970s, the company was ready to begin producing under the name Epic the potentially safer cigarette to which James Mold had devoted so many years. Yet at this critical moment, Mold began to see signs that Liggett’s resolve was faltering. He became increasingly frustrated with the involvement of company lawyers, especially when he found that “the Legal Department would pounce upon [any problem and] ... attempt to kill the project.”

While Mold and his colleagues successfully fought to keep the project alive, it began to seem more and more likely that the palladium cigarettes would be marketed overseas, if at all. His disillusionment reached a peak when he prepared to describe the product at a 1978 meeting of the International Cancer Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, only to have the planned press conference canceled. The following year Mold was denied permission to attend a conference on less hazardous cigarettes and he became fed up.

In 1979, he submitted his resignation after nearly a quarter-century at Liggett & Myers. In the Cipollone case he offered this summary of the reasons for his resignation: “I guess the point that I made was, ‘You’re evidently not serious in pursuing marketing of this product that we have, and you’re not interested in giving this information to someone who might be serious in producing it, and for that reason, I see no reason to continue my participation in the program.’”

Mold did not entirely sever his relationship with Liggett. He remained in Durham, North Carolina, and continued to do some consulting work for the firm over the next five years, having been told that Liggett still intended to market the palladium cigarette in Europe. But these plans also fell through, and when contacted by Cipollone lead attorney Marc Edell, Mold proved more than willing to describe his frustrations. He ended up testifying at a deposition and again at trial. While the judge ultimately instructed the jury to disregard Mold’s testimony on the basis of a lack of evidence that it was likely Rose Cipollone would have switched to such a brand, his testimony nonetheless painted a devastating portrayal of the industry’s attitude toward public safety. Mold would subsequently testify before Congress and give a similar version of events.

In person, James Mold was described by author Richard Kluger as “a tall, lean man reserved to the point of reticence, whose steel-framed glasses and precise manner made him seem the very model of a small-town pharmacist lifted bodily from a Norman Rockwell painting.” His whole life was wrapped up in his work on the palladium-catalyzed cigarette; aside from his testimony in the Cipollone case and before Congress, he never made news. After leaving Liggett, he retired and remained in Durham. When he died there on November 19, 2002, his death attracted no mention in the national press.

Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America (New York: Basic Books, 2007).
“Daisy Irene Mold Beschenbossel,” obituary (of Mold’s sister), Bucks County Courier Times, January 4, 2008.
Richard Kluger, Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris (New York: Vintage Books, 1996).
Morton Mintz, “ ‘Safe” Cigarette Lobby Effort Detailed,” Washington Post, February 17, 1988, F1.
James D. Mold, testimony in Cipollone on Tobacco Documents Online.

For More Biographical Information:
American Men & Women of Science; various editions.


   Mold, James