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Cancer charity takes stand against tobacco industry

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7114.967a (Published 18 October 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:967
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. BMJ

    The Cancer Research Campaign has said that it will no longer provide research support to any faculty or comparable unit that receives funding from the tobacco industry.

    The charity's new draft code of practice aims to ensure that future scientific grants are not tainted with tobacco money. The code was drawn up after the announcement last year that British American Tobacco was to give £1.5m ($2.4m) to Cambridge University to fund a chair of international relations (27 July 1996, p 186).

    Professor Gordon McVie, the charity's director general, said: “The tobacco industry has a long history of gaining respectability by funding research and facilities in our centres of academic excellence. Now it's only a matter of time before the practice stops and we break that addiction to tobacco funding.”

    The charity also revealed the results of a MORI poll of almost 2000 adults throughout Britain which found that the overwhelming majority do not have confidence in the projects and findings of scientists who work for the tobacco industry. The survey found that the tobacco industry was the most unpopular source of sponsorship, more so than the nuclear and arms industries.

    The charity said that accepting funding from the tobacco industry can lead to delays in decision making, a distortion of the research agenda, and gives respectability to the tobacco industry. It also said that funding inevitably creates conflicts of interest for recipient institutions if they have one department funded by the tobacco industry and another researching the harmful effects of tobacco. The code of practice will now be sent to all university vice chancellors and a wide range of medical and ethical organisations for comment to determine the final wording.

    Tessa Jowell, minister for public health, congratulated the charity on producing the document. “This initiative is consistent with the government's commitment to ban tobacco advertising and to develop a tobacco control strategy,” she said.

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