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What if… your research is suddenly affiliated with a tobacco manufacturing company?
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  • Published on:
    Solutions to tobacco industry influence on science need to address the whole system of science
    • Tess Legg, Research Associate University of Bath
    • Other Contributors:
      • Alice Fabbri, Lecturer

    Van den Bosch et al. (2024) carefully outline their reflections on Philip Morris International’s (PMI) 2021 takeover of Vectura Group. We thank the authors for opening the conversation on this important issue and sympathise about the difficult position they were left in when Vectura’s board agreed to PMI’s acquisition. We would like to offer some additional food for thought on this topic stemming from our own work.

    The Science for Profit Model (Legg et al., 2021a) demonstrates how corporations across diverse industries seek to influence all aspects of science – what is researched, how research is conducted, disseminated and interpreted, and whether and how it is used in policy and practice. Corporate sectors including tobacco, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, fossil fuels and gambling do this in remarkably similar ways, skewing whole evidence bases in industry’s favour – weakening regulation, preventing litigation and maximising product sales.

    Certain aspects of this influence are particularly pertinent here. Firstly, despite Vectura assuring the researchers their work would remain independent, the resulting science can still further PMI’s objectives. Research that deflects attention from corporate harms or promotes interventions that minimise damage to product sales is not necessarily “contaminated” but nonetheless benefits the industry funder by driving research agendas away from topics which would impact industry negatively (Legg et al., 2021a, Fabbri et al., 20...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.