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Tobacco Related Disease Research Program
  1. Cardiovascular Research Institute, and Cancer Center
  2. Institute for Health Policy Studies
  3. University of California
  4. San Francisco, CA 94143-0130, USA;

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    While the most visible battles about tobacco are political, the politics is driven by science and the tobacco industry has always fought scientific work that would elucidate the dangers of smoking and, in recent decades, passive smoking.1 From the beginning the tobacco industry understood the potential importance of the research program that Proposition 99 created—the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP)—and carefully monitored it using standard industry tactics, such as periodic public records act requests.2Just a month after the voters enacted Proposition 99, the tobacco industry's primary “political” law firm in California, Nielsen-Merksamer, had already prepared recommendations for how to minimise the impact of the research program that Proposition 99 required.3 Since most of the public controversy around the tobacco control efforts created by California's voters when they passed Proposition 99 centred on the high profile anti-tobacco education program, particularly the anti-smoking advertising campaign,4 5 TRDRP was established with minimum interference from the tobacco industry. Once TRDRP funded research threatened the industry and its political allies, California Governor Pete Wilson and pro-tobacco legislators led by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D–San Francisco) shut it down. The program was revived following a strenuous political campaign led by the American Heart Association and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.5

    My work was at the centre of much of the controversy that the tobacco industry and its allies generated about TRDRP, and it is from this perspective that I offer this commentary.

    When I received the first call for applications from the new TRDRP program, I considered applying for a grant to study the tobacco industry. The industry, after all, had spent years studying the public health advocates and I thought it would be interesting to return the favour. Just as stopping malaria required understanding mosquitos, preventing heart disease and …

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