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Criteria for evaluating tobacco control research funding programs and their application to models that include financial support from the tobacco industry
  1. J E Cohen1,2,
  2. M Zeller3,
  3. T Eissenberg4,
  4. M Parascandola5,
  5. R O’Keefe6,
  6. L Planinac1,
  7. S Leischow7
  1. 1
    Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2
    University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3
    Pinney Associates, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  4. 4
    Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
  5. 5
    National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  6. 6
    Health Effects Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  7. 7
    University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  1. J E Cohen, University of Toronto, 33 Russell Street, T5, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2S1; Joanna_cohen{at}

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Much has been discussed and written about the purposes, outcomes and ethics related to tobacco industry funding of research.19 The issue is controversial because of tobacco industry funding mechanisms that have been used by the tobacco industry to gain credibility and to advance the industry’s interests, which may come at the expense of public health;6 at the same time others have argued that, given the scarcity of funding from other sources, tobacco industry support may be defensible, at least under some circumstances.10 These concerns raise the question of whether there could be a model of tobacco company funding that would be acceptable to the tobacco control research community. This paper presents a set of criteria for evaluating funding models and applies them to four diverse models.

While tobacco consumption and prevalence rates have declined in many developed countries over the past 40 years, the projections are that worldwide tobacco-related deaths will increase in the 21st century.11 Despite the disproportionate toll tobacco use takes, there remains only a modest investment in research to better understand tobacco products, tobacco product marketing, addiction, treatment and consumer behaviour. For example, in the USA, where tobacco causes almost 30% of all cancer deaths, only 2.3% of the National Cancer Institute’s 2003 budget was spent on tobacco-related research funding.12 This level of research investment is inadequate relative to the magnitude of the damage caused by tobacco use.13 14

At the same time, the tobacco industry has funded tobacco and health related research at universities. In the current context of limited funding, individuals and institutions may welcome additional sources of support. However the evidence is now clear that the tobacco industry participated in a long-standing conspiracy to defraud the public regarding the health risks of smoking. In 2006, the …

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  • Funding: The 2007 Workshop that led to this manuscript was funded through the strategic initiative Advancing the Science to Reduce Tobacco Abuse and Nicotine Addiction. This initiative is a partnership of government and non-profit organisations under the coordination of the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative (CTCRI). TE’s effort on this project was supported in part by USPHS grant R01CA103827.

  • Competing interests: MZ works for Pinney Associates, which provides consulting services to GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare on issues related to treating tobacco dependence. TE has consulted with the National Association of Attorneys General on issues related to potential veduced exposure products (PREPs) and PREP testing; he has received free of charge smokeless tobacco products from RJ Reynolds so he could test them in his laboratory; neither RJ Reynolds nor any other company has ever had any input into any work performed in his laboratory, nor have they had any input into any reporting of results. TE conducts laboratory studies of PREPs that are funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). SL has consulted for Pfizer and J&J Pharmaceuticals, and has given presentations for Pfizer.