Jeffrey Robert Seckler was a regional manager for Healthy Buildings International (HBI), a company that contracted with the tobacco industry to help persuade the public that secondhand tobacco smoke (ETS) pollution was a minimal problem in buildings. He was employed by Gray Robertson who was the tobacco industry's favourite air-testing expert because he always found that tobacco smoke played a minor role in poor office air quality (IAQ) and that the major problems were exudates from synthetic carpets, vapours from photocopy machines, and other scape-goat products.
Seckler eventually started his own company as a rival operation to Robertson's HBI, but Robertson then held so much sway through the Tobacco Institute's Labor Management Committee and Philip Morris that Seckler's business began to fail. He turned into a whistleblower, who revealed how the whole sham indoor office testing of air quality operated.
The contact person to reach Jeff Seckler is the attorney Alexander Pyrese. Jeff Seckler has blown the whistle on an alleged front organization set up by the Tobacco Institute to confuse the issue of office management and environmental tobacco smoke. However, in a subsequent legal settlement with HBI, Seckler admitted that he knew of no wrong doing by HBI.
Jeffrey Seckler graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a degree in Economics. His formal education also included training as a U.S. Air Force jet pilot. Seckler entered the field of indoor air quality in 1986, after 15 years of sales management and marketing experience. After heading a company involved in the distribution of air purification equipment, Seckler joined Air Conditioning and Ventilation Associates Atlantic (ACVA Atlantic) in 1988. ACVA Atlantic became Healthy Buildings International in 1989.
Tobacco industry involvement
In an April, 1993 court filing made jointly with the U.S. government in the District of Columbia under the False Claims Act (the "whistle-blower" statute), Seckler complained that during the period of 1989 to 1992, his employer, Healthy Buildings International, Inc. (HBI), entered into contracts with the United States federal government to inspect the interiors of federal buildings under "fraudulent and false pretenses." Seckler further claimed that HBI maintained a secret contractual relationship with the Tobacco Institute, R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris to provide building inspections that would not focus on the harms caused by cigarette smoke, and to testify at public hearings against smoking bans in return for which the Institute, and later RJR, paid HBI a fee for each inspection completed. Philip Morris, through the Tobacco Institute, paid HBI, in the form of grants, hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish a magazine, called Healthy Buildings International Magazine, which the Institute and Philip Morris used in the United States and around the world to combat the tobacco control (anti-smoking) movement. Seckler also claimed that the Tobacco Institute secretly subsidized HBI's office in Danvers, Massachusetts and other expenses of HBI, and that the Institute, whenever it needed an inspection, would secretly pay for the cost of an HBI inspection. According to Seckler's court complaint, "as a further part of this fraudulent scheme and conspiracy, TI, inter alia ["among other things"], paid to have HBI employees attend media training classes to learn how to speak against smoking bans, paid for part of HBI employees' salaries, [and] told HBI employees to lie about their motivation for testifying at various hearings, [and] paid HBI to spy on anti-smoking individuals and groups." 
Accordingly, while representing HBI in the early 1990s, Seckler gave media interviews in which he minimized discussion of secondhand smoke as a point-source of indoor air pollution and instead portrayed it solely as an indicator of poor overall building ventilation.
In July, 1998, Seckler settled his suit out of court for $100,000. The funds, paid by tobacco companies, were split between Seckler and the U.S. government, which had filed as a co-complainant in Seckler's case. A July 2, 1998 article about the settlement in the Los Angeles Times stated that the tobacco industry was paying HBI's legal costs in the lawsuit. The article further stated that, "in an unusual clause in the agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the former executive, Jeffrey R. Seckler, admitted that HBI 'to his knowledge' had not defrauded or filed false reports with its federal clients."
HBI has since been sold, and in 1999 severed all ties with the tobacco industry.
|Subcommittee on Health and the Environment - Majority Staff Report: Dec. 20 1994|
|ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE INVESTIGATION|
|Healthy Buildings International (HBI) began its relationship with the tobacco industry in 1985. At that time, the company was a small and obscure indoor air firm. In addition to the president and vice president, it had only two technical employees and operated under the name ACVA Atlantic. Over the next nine years, however, HBI grew to be an international presence in the indoor air field. This was due in large measure to the patronage of the tobacco industry. During this period, the Tobacco Institute, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and the Center for Indoor Air Research (a tobacco-industry research organization) paid HBI millions of dollars for its services.|
The tobacco industry went to great lengths to promote HBI. The Tobacco Institute paid the expenses of a public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard, to arrange media tours for HBI throughout the United States. From September 1990 to November 1992, Philip Morris covered all the expenses of, and paid HBI a substantial fee for, the publication of a magazine entitled "Healthy Buildings International Magazine." The magazine, which included glossy color photographs, was published in eight languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, and Finnish) and disseminated worldwide.
A report circulated within HBI in late 1991 or 1992 describes "the HBI concept" that the tobacco industry paid so much to promote. According to this document, "the key objective of the HBI concept is to broaden the debate on indoor air quality to deflect the ETS challenge." The document states that "HBI is now positioned as an authority on IAQ issues" [and has] "brought balance to the IAQ [indoor air quality] debate" [by promoting] "acceptance that ETS is in fact a minor contributor."
HBI performed at least two vital services for the tobacco industry. First, it conducted scientific research for the industry that purported to show that ETS is not a significant source of indoor air pollution. The most significant of these research studies was done in 1989, when HBI was paid over $200,000 by the tobacco industry's Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR) to study ETS levels in 585 office environments. The results of this study were summarized in a final report to CIAR in January 1990 presented to EPA in public comments in September 1990, and formally published in 1992.
In addition to conducting research for the tobacco industry, HBI regularly testified for the industry in opposition to federal, state, and local restrictions on smoking. Over most of the last decade, HBI was the tobacco industry's principal defender on ETS matters. According to the records of the Tobacco Institute, HBI testified 129 times for the Tobacco Institute from August 1985 through September 1994 -- an average of more than once per month. In some months, HBI testified as many as six times. HBI's appearances for the Tobacco Institute included testimony before Congress (including this Subcommittee on June 27, 1986, and March 17, 1994), before state legislatures, and before local governments. 
Related Sourcewatch resources
- Healthy Buildings International
- Philip Morris' Project Brass
- Philip Morris' Whitecoat Project
- Secondhand smoke
- Tobacco industry IAQ ploys
- Indoor Air Quality
- Philip Morris' Latin Project
- Seckler J, ACVA Atlantic Jeffrey Seckler Senior Consultant ACVA Atlantic, Inc. 10378 Democracy Lane Fairfax, Virginia 22030 (703) 352-0102 Resume'. Undated. Tobacco Institute Bates No. TIDN0011538
- Robertson G., Healthy Buildings International Untitled letter December 13, 1989. Tobacco Institute Bates No. TIDN0009768
- Court filing J. Seckler vs. Healthy Buildings International, Inc. Demand For Jury Trial April 6, 1993. 27 pp. Brown & Williamson Bates No. 490106634/6660
- Chapman S, Penman A Can't stop the boy: Philip Morris’ use of Healthy Buildings International to prevent workplace smoking bans in Australia Tobacco Control 2003;12:iii107
- J Seckler vs. Healthy Buildings International, Inc. Demand For Jury Trial Legal pleading. November 7, 1994. Bates No. 490106795/6834
- Radio TV Reports Jeff Seckler Interviewed Transcript. May 14, 1991. Bates No. TIDN0005243/5262
- Radio TV Reports DayBreak Jeff Seckler Discusses Indoor Air Pollution Transcript. July 29, 1991. Bates No. TI10050917/0919
- Radio TV Reports George Woods Show - Jeff Seckler Discusses Sick Building Syndrome Transcript. May 14, 1991. Tobacco Institute Bates No. TI10050860/0877
- Tobacco Institute Jeff Seckler HBI Media Tour St. Louis and Kansas City Agenda. Undated. Tobacco Institute Bates No. TIDN0005274/5275
- Levin M., Los Angeles Times Indoor-air consultant settles whistle-blower suit courts: ex-executive claimed Healthy Buildings International was front for tobacco companies July 2, 1998. (Accessed April 30, 2008)
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