Education And Debate

For and against: Should Nottingham University give back its tobacco money?ForAgainst

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 05 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1118

For and against: Should Nottingham University give back its tobacco money?

Richard Smith, editor of the BMJ, is professor of medical journalism at Nottingham University, which has taken £3.8m from British American Tobacco to fund an international centre for the study of corporate responsibility. He argues that the university should return the money. The university's vice chancellor, Sir Colin Campbell, argues the opposite. Readers are asked to vote on whether the university should return the money and whether Smith should resign if it doesn't.

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  1. Richard Smith (, editor
  1. BMJ BMA House, London WC1H 9JR
  2. University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD

    By taking money from the tobacco industry, the University of Nottingham debases itself. It offers the industry—at a cheap price—a respectability it doesn't deserve. Using the money to support an international centre for the study of corporate responsibility is especially unfortunate because the industry has repeatedly behaved irresponsibly. Whatever the internal justification for taking the money, the name of Nottingham University is besmirched.

    The question of where “to draw the line” in relation to the tobacco industry arises constantly. Some people think that any contact with the industry is wrong, but the BMJ has not adopted this policy. Thus we publish research funded by the industry, arguing that we would distort the scientific record by refusing to publish. The BMJ has also carried an advertisement from a tobacco company looking for an occupational physician. Our logic was that employees of a tobacco company deserve the best physician they can get; and in Britain you find the best possible doctor by advertising in the BMJ. We have been criticised for both these actions.

    So my reaction to Nottingham University taking this money is not a kneejerk response. The university has, I …

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