NEWARK, FEB. 25 -- A plaintiff's lawyer in a smoker-death trial today introduced documents showing that tobacco company attorneys were a major influence on industry-funded research on smoking and health.

Lawyer Marc Z. Edell twice used the documents to persuade Joseph F. Cullman III, chairman emeritus of Philip Morris Inc., to retract sworn statements made in earlier depositions.

The retractions mainly involved Shook, Hardy & Bacon, a Kansas City law firm representing two of the defendants, Philip Morris and P. Lorillard Inc., and the industry-funded Council for Tobacco Research. The research council has a board of tobacco company chief executives and a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to make grants for research on smoking and health.

In the deposition, Cullman said "I would doubt" that Shook, Hardy would act as a liaison between Philip Morris or the industry and the research council in connection with its funding of research he repeatedly acclaimed as independent. But today he said, "I was wrong in my deposition."

Cullman also testified in 1984 that Shook, Hardy attended SAB meetings on research grants, partly because results from the studies might bear on "a connection between cigarettes and health." Also, he said, the attorneys were on hand "essentially to guide the board in the directions of their {press} releases, their communication to the outside world."

Today, Cullman said he couldn't recall the participation in SAB grants meetings of Shook, Hardy, other tobacco law firms and Philip Morris's own top attorneys. Rather, he said, "we were trying to get the most correct, honest information out to the public."

Other hitherto confidential documents put in evidence by Edell disclosed:

The late Clarence Cook Little, the CTR's first scientific director, once spoke of a "war" against the American Cancer Society, Britain's Royal College of Physicians and the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. In 1963, the year before the first surgeon general's report, Little told an executive of Hill and Knowlton, a public relations firm, " ... we have two 'fronts' in our war. The ACS-RCP type of activity and the surgeon general's study."

In 1964, Little's successor, Dr. Robert C. Hockett, told the research council: "We have consulted a considerable number of statistical experts about the {surgeon general's} report. Nearly all are in agreement that the associations of disease incidence with cigarette smoking must be accepted as established."

In 1962, Philip Morris agreed to make the first of three $25,000 annual gifts to the Sloan-Kettering Institute, which James C. Bowling, Cullman's assistant and public relations chief, called "the premier institution in cancer research." Then five other tobacco firms also gave substantial sums.

At about the same time in 1962, Bowling said, Sloan-Kettering officials "began subjecting {Dr. Ernest L. Wynder, a leading critic of smoking} to more rigorous screening procedures before letting him speak in the name of the institute. This has had a proper and pleasing effect."

Cullman has said repeatedly that the tobacco firms were determined to get to the bottom of the smoking and health controversy. Edell attacked this claim today with a 1975 memo to the CTR from Dr. Sheldon C. Sommers, now the research council's scientific director, about research that the firms funded at the University of California Los Angeles.

Sommers wrote that the UCLA effort has "very little" relevance to smoking and health, and "it is dragged into the program." He also asked, "Is the money well spent in the interests of humanity?" His answer: "doubtful."