Researchers Differ Over Use of Tobacco Industry Money
DURHAM (AP) _ R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is helping to fund a conference on nicotine research that begins this week and three of its staff scientists are among the scheduled speakers, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The tobacco company contributed $15,000 to buy airline tickets and lodging for out-of-town scientists giving presentations, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
``It’s hard to both take money from a producer of products that kill people and do unconflicted research,″ said Barbara Rimer, one of two researchers who withdrew from the conference because of RJR’s involvement.
But Jed Rose, a Duke University psychiatry professor who helped invent the nicotine patch and other anti-smoking devices, said it’s the quality of the research and not the source of funding that counts.
Rose is planning to build a nicotine research center at Duke. The Center for Nicotine Research will have twin missions: to help people kick the habit, and to explore nicotine’s potential as a healer. Several of its faculty accept tobacco industry grants to help fund their labs, the newspaper said.
``We know that there are people who believe that anyone who even accepts dollars from a tobacco company is tainted and should wear a scarlet letter,″ said center Assistant Director Ed Levin. ``But we want to be a collection point for neutral scientific evaluation of what we know is a highly politicized area.″
The president of a new society of nicotine researchers says anyone in his field who takes tobacco money will face tougher scrutiny from scientific peers. And the Journal of the American Medical Association published a recent editorial calling on researchers to refuse tobacco dollars for academic research.
``A university as an institution stands for something. It stands for truth. The tobacco industry is antithetical to that,″ said Stanley Glantz, a University of California researcher. Glantz is the author of several AMA articles about documents allegedly showing that tobacco industry officials have known for years that nicotine is addictive and that cigarettes cause cancer in lab animals.
Don deBethizy, a research and development director at RJR, said calls for banning tobacco funding for medical research are infuriating and have more to do with politics than science.
``I could say that people who get funding from organizations who have as their goal the prohibition of tobacco are equally as suspect,″ he said. ``But I’m not going to do that.″