Australia: industry flies the surrender flag
- Quit Victoria, Australia
A recent commentary in Tobacco Controloutlined the nature of the relation between universities and research institutions, and research funding from tobacco companies.1 The article also addressed ways of countering this relationship. Revelations from the tobacco industry's internal documents from Australia show how effective pressure can be brought to bear by those who fund and participate in research by denying funding to organisations and individuals that take tainted tobacco dollars.
Australian tobacco companies established the Australian Tobacco Research Foundation in the 1970s and distributed grants through a scientific advisory committee. Its name was later given a public relations facelift and changed to the Smoking and Health Research Foundation. Its funding came from WD and HO Wills, Rothmans, and Philip Morris, each contributing around $500 000 per year.2 3Between 1970 and 1994 the foundation disbursed over $A9 million in grants.4 Its mission was “to conduct research into the relationship in Australia between smoking and health and disease in its widest context. Support may be given to projects which aim to elucidate the mechanisms by which tobacco smoking is thought to be linked to human disease”.3
In 1988, all members of the scientific advisory committee wrote a letter to the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia after suggestions that the foundation was supportive of the tobacco industry, or smoking, or both. …