Tobacco industry sought to prevent Islamic fatwas against smoking

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 28 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2281
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

For three decades the tobacco industry has fought a secret battle against Islamic scholars who seek to discourage smoking, show industry documents reported in a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.1

Tobacco firms have sought to recruit Islamic scholars to argue against strict prohibitions and have asked industry lawyers to study Islamic theology and provide interpretations of the Koran that are friendlier to tobacco. “The industry has sought to distort and misinterpret the cultural beliefs of these communities and to reinterpret them to serve the industry’s interests,” said Kelley Lee of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, one of the authors of the study. “All to sell a product that kills half of its customers.”

Islam was historically neutral towards smoking, but as the health dangers emerged many scholars began to argue that it was “markrooh” (discouraged) or “haram” (prohibited). Documents from British American Tobacco (BAT) show that it identified this development as a major threat to future …

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