Big Tobacco and Research

Posted 4th November 2016 by Mawsley
Glantz may be keeping a low profile in the coverage of his latest study but its findings won’t find much disagreement from the vaping community. Cancer Research also sets its sights on Big Tobacco and cautions against claims made as a result of its fag-funded research. But is it fair to discount their input?

“Tobacco companies once saw e-cigarettes as a threat. Now they see them as an opportunity,” says The Times. “The boom [in vaping] owes a great deal to the profusion of research showing the benefits of vaping. There is a clear scientific consensus that e-cigarettes carry only a fraction of the health risks of tobacco, containing fewer harmful chemicals and carcinogens.”

The paper, currently looking at a court appearance for defaming pro-vape scientists, are magnanimous to offer this statement on researchers actually employed by Big Tobacco: “There is no suggestion that the researchers were influenced by the tobacco industry’s generosity, nor that they tried to obscure these companies’ involvement. Interests were properly declared.”

The fact that tobacco companies are involved at all is why Glantz, along with Elizabeth Cox and Rachel Barry, wrote E-cigarette Policymaking by Local and State Governments: 2009-2014. They contend, backed up by the studies they commission, that Big T is using its clout to twist new legislation to suit its own ends. Where they remain confused is to conflate genuine opposition to harm reduction and informed choice with strategies used by tobacco companies in the past.

“By 2013, tobacco companies led by Philip Morris USA were spending more than $6 million on lobbying in some of those states,” says Cox, “about ten times the amount spent by e-cigarette companies. By making contributions, lobbying, and establishing third-party front groups, it wasn't long before they were able to call the shots on e-cigarette policy at the state level.”

But, casting the net wider, Barry links the independent sector in and adds: "E-cigarette user groups and retailers used many of the same tobacco-style tactics in grassroots efforts to defeat public health legislation. As with the earlier tobacco control debates, public health advocates had the most success at local levels in overcoming intense opposition from the tobacco industry and the grassroots e-cigarette movement."

Consequently, it is understandable where the strong reluctance to accept Bit T studies lies. George Butterworth, Cancer Research, said: “The tobacco industry has an appalling record of producing misleading research and distorting scientific evidence, historically around the addictive nature and health harms of smoking.”

“Tobacco companies market e-cigarettes as a lifestyle choice as opposed to a method of quitting,” Butterworth continued. “'We don't condemn any researchers but Cancer Research UK has a clear policy to not work with those who are currently in receipt of tobacco industry funding, including from e-cigarette firms owned by tobacco companies.”

The fact remains that tobacco companies will remain a major part of vaping, for all the good and bad that entails. British American Tobacco’s David O Reilly contends: “Many heads are always better than one. There needs to be more collaboration, not less. We believe our role in tobacco harm reduction is to create a range of less risky alternatives to traditional cigarettes that meet growing consumer demand and the varying needs of smokers looking for more choice.”