Prof. Lisa Bero, University of Sidney (2019): When big companies fund academic research, the truth often comes last
In 1981 an influential Japanese study
showed an association between passive smoking and lung cancer. It
concluded wives of heavy smokers had up to twice the risk of developing
lung cancer as wives of non-smokers and that the risk was dose related. Tobacco companies then funded academic researchers
to create a study that would refute these findings. The tobacco
companies were involved in every step of the funded work, but kept the
extent of their involvement hidden for decades. They framed the research
questions, designed the study, collected and provided data, and wrote
the final publication. This publication was used as “evidence” that tobacco smoke is not
harmful. It concluded there was no direct evidence passive smoke
exposure increased risk of lung cancer. The tobacco industry cited the study in government and regulatory documents to refute the independent data on the harms of passive smoking.
Three tobacco companies created and funded The Center for Indoor Air Research
that would conduct research to “distract” from evidence for the harms
of second-hand smoke.
Throughout the 1990s, this centre funded dozens of
research projects that suggested components of indoor air, such as
carpet off-gases or dirty air filters, were more harmful than tobacco.