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Charity calls for ban on tobacco industry funding of research

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7358.238/a (Published 03 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:238
  1. Mark Gould
  1. London

    Cancer Research UK wants educational and research bodies to agree a blanket ban on donations from tobacco companies. And it is threatening to stop funding research at institutions receiving money from the tobacco industry.

    The charity has issued a code of practice for universities on accepting money from the tobacco industry, which is now out for consultation. It says the evidence that tobacco causes cancer is “irrefutable,” yet the tobacco industry still targets its products at young people and people in developing countries. The industry is “also seeking to reinvent itself as socially responsible, in particular through establishing links with prestigious academic institutions,” it claims.

    The new code states: “Cancer Research UK believes that universities should shun any involvement whatsoever with the tobacco industry.” It goes on to say that Cancer Research UK does not support the use of tobacco industry funding for any other activities and that it “disapproves of any use of tobacco industry funds in any educational or research establishment.”

    The charity felt obliged to make its stance clear after what it describes as “repeated misleading press statements from a leading UK university” about the code.

    Proposed sanctions include the right for the charity to criticise institutions funded by tobacco companies and to choose where it allocates its £176m ($275m;€280m) research budget.

    “Where [Cancer Research UK] is considering competing proposals for projects or programmes of equal scientific merit, it will favour universities not in receipt of tobacco industry funding,” states the code.

    BMJ editor Richard Smith was one of several academics who resigned from Nottingham University last year after it accepted a £3.8m donation from British American Tobacco. The money was used to set up the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.

    A spokesman for Nottingham University said that it would respond to the consultation document in due course. “The code will be part of the evidence used by Universities UK to review its code of practice,” he said, adding, “We accepted the £3.8m under the existing protocols.”

    A Tobacco Manufacturers Association spokeswoman said it hoped to respond after it had had time to study the document.

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