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Tobacco dollars are a bad bargain
Most tobacco researchers now know how the tobacco industry for decades operated clandestinely to obstruct and obfuscate the scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer and, later, that secondhand smoke causes disease in non-smokers. The tobacco industry’s internal documents, released as a result of the US states Attorneys General lawsuits and other legal cases, provide ample evidence that is analysed in an expanding body of work.1,2 What may not be as widely known is that these documents also highlight how the industry used respected scientists to advance its goals. Fields and Chapman’s important and well documented case study in this issue of the journal shows that even internationally renowned scientists are not immune to the seductions of industry funding.3
What is important for today’s scientists to understand is that credibility is perhaps the most desired scientific product for tobacco industry funded research. To illustrate, you need look no further than the internal form used by Philip Morris’ Worldwide Scientific Affairs to evaluate the need for scientific research, which explicitly includes “Credibility” as a primary criterion for judging proposed studies (along with Health/Safety, Regulatory, and Product Change). (see fig 1; also available at http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/bwi17d00). Credibility is essential to the positive public image the tobacco industry cultivates for the purposes of increasing product consumption, influencing public opinion, and soliciting opposition to effective …