Philip Morris' new scientific initiative: an analysis
In the fall of 2000, Philip Morris re-initiated an external research grants programme (“Philip Morris External Research Program”, or PMERP), the first since the dissolution of the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) and the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR). The ostensible purpose of the programme is to help develop cigarette designs “that might reduce the health risk of smoking”. Internal company documents also indicate that Philip Morris urgently seeks to restore its scientific “credibility”, as part of a “new openness” in relation to the external community. The structure of the review panel—a cohort of external peer reviewers, a science advisory board, and an internal, anonymous review and approvals committee—is nearly identical to that of the CIAR. The majority of the named reviewers have had previous affiliation with the tobacco industry either as reviewers or grantees, but only a minority have done research directly on tobacco or smoking. The programmatic substance of the PMERP could be interpreted as soliciting exculpatory evidence with respect to smoking and exposure to smoke. We remain sceptical about the scientific integrity of PMERP.