Tobacco industry-funded research

Posted 22nd September 2017 by Dave Cross
The forthcoming issue of the journal Toxicology carries a paper by Riccardo Polosa, University of Catania in Italy, and Good Clinical Practice Alliance’s
Francis Crawley. They investigate the scientific and ethical obligations to publish tobacco industry-funded research on nicotine delivery systems of reduced risk.

The paper notes that “a tobacco-free world would be much healthier”, but we exist in one where smoking is legal and cigarettes are widely available. Despite all the research linking smoking to illnesses, disease and death, people continue to inhale the products of combustion.

The companies supplying sticks of death covered themselves in ignominy thanks to decades of lying about the addictiveness of nicotine, the dangers of smoking, and corrupt business practices. Consequently, “many scientific journals have long adopted policies to forbid publication of tobacco industry funded research, considering it unethical to publish research from manufacturers of lethal products who repeatedly engaged in scientific misconduct.”

Polosa and Crawley agree that the justification for banning studies funded by tobacco firms has the weight of history behind it. That said, they think “it is incompatible with current scientific, ethical and public health realities endorsed by foremost official regulators and health agencies worldwide.”

The pair point out that the scientific process demands the sharing of data, a process that works towards delivering complete, open, and transparent reporting. Through doing so scientists can validate or discount findings, support their results, avoid the replication of approaches that failed, and open up the possibility to test the reproducibility of results.


By calling for the tobacco industry to be accepted onto the pages of publications, the duo will be set to incur the wrath of those vocally opposed to having anything to do with the industry. They say the two-tiered scientific review system is an example of “double standards”, one that can no longer be accepted.

Going further, they highlight that “journal editors banning tobacco industry funded research papers are at odds with leading international ethics guidelines in health research and fail to undertake the responsibility of their role in health research as defined by their own profession.”

It will be interesting to see how warmly the aforementioned journal editors receive this paper.

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 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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