N° 158
14 January 2005 

Tobacco industry undermining the basis of trust in Science

Bitton and colleagues publish in the current issue of Lancet further revelations about Tobacco Industry subterfuge employed to discredit scientific research, including work conducted at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and to target specific scientists.

"The use of consultants, who fail to declare their associations with the tobacco industry, to publish purchased critiques of scientific research appears to remain one of the key strategic approaches of the Tobacco Industry" said Dr Peter Boyle, Director of the IARC. "Strategically coordinated attacks by hired guns, hiding behind undisclosed paid associations with industry, on the personal research of independent scientists by such means is at best unethical and at worst cowardly."

"Mutations in p53 tumour suppressor gene have been reported in 60% of lung tumours. Work published from 1996 onwards, based to a large extent on IARC’s p53 Database (, demonstrated patterned mutagenic effect of benzo[a]pyrene, a carcinogen present in tobacco smoke. "The tobacco industry tried to tamper with this evidence because of the implications in the recognition of tobacco smoke as the cause of individual cases of lung cancer. Their strategy of infiltrating the scientific community to undermine the normal process of peer review and publication is distressing for the scientists whose work is targeted. It is also damaging for outstanding journals and academic institutions whose record with respect to tobacco research might appear to be blurred by the actions of a few individuals who maintained undisclosed tobacco industry ties."

"Such activity was supposed to be a thing of the past following the U.S. Master Settlement in the late 1990s, but obviously this is not the case" noted Dr Boyle. "The Tobacco companies claim that they are now working with the public health community to support a single, consistent public health message on the role played by cigarette smoking in the development of disease in smokers."

"If the Tobacco Industry is genuine in their recently proclaimed desire to work with the Public Health community then they cannot expect any cooperation if they continue to be involved in this and other similar activities. This Industry needs to demonstrate true corporate social responsibility. Until then, the public health community can have no confidence in the actions of the Tobacco Industry, and academic institutions should refuse any involvement with them, no matter how loudly the industry claims that they will not interfere in the research."

World Health Organization
International Agency for Research on Cancer

Organisation mondiale de la Santé
Centre international de Recherche sur le Cancer

150, cours Albert-Thomas 69372 Lyon Cedex 08 (France)
Telephone: 33 472 738 485     Facsimile: 33 472 738 311