For and against

Why journals should not publish articles funded by the tobacco industryForAgainst

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7268.1074 (Published 28 October 2000)
Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1074.1

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That the tobacco industry is allowed a platform through scientific journals is a controversial issue. The Cancer Research Campaign already withholds research grants from academic departments closely linked with the tobacco industry; here it argues that respected journals should not publish articles funded by the industry. Such a notion is challenged by two editors, who prefer a policy of transparency and disclosure rather than prohibition.

For

  1. Jean King (jking@crc.org.uk), director of education funding.
  1. The Cancer Research Campaign, London NW1 4JL
  2. a Western Journal of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94105-1911, USA,
  3. b BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    The arguments for scientists refusing to accept funding from the tobacco industry and, by extension, journals refusing to accept publications arising from such funding, fall into three main categories (box 1).

    Box 1: Arguments for refusing funding from the tobacco industry

    Harm to health

    The scale, range, and extent of the harm caused by tobacco far outweigh the effects of any other known product, legal or illegal

    Distortion of scientific findings

    Directly and indirectly the tobacco industry has systematically sought to undermine and misrepresent sound research on a massive scale, while itself funding studies and scientists of questionable credibility

    Other disreputable activities

    The tobacco industry's own documents show a uniquely discredited and disgraced sector that has sought to conceal evidence, recruit minors, and dupe the public and governments alike for many decades

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    Harm to health

    The health risks associated with tobacco use have been detailed in many reports and were the basis of the justification for the Cancer Research Campaign's code of practice, which prohibits research groups in receipt of money from the tobacco industry from applying to it for funds (box 2).17

    Distortion and “distraction” of scientific research

    The tobacco industry has a long track record of seeking to cast doubt on good research, as shown in its own documents, now available on the internet owing to litigation cases in the United States. One tactic is to commission studies aimed at discrediting accepted findings: examples include studies that cast doubt on epidemiological findings, especially in relation to passive smoking, or which purport to identify other risk factors for …

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