Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Durham University accepts tobacco money for scholarship fund

The story can be found here and here. The donation from British American Tobacco seems to have upset academics and some of the student body, and is predictably described by Action on Smoking and Health as 'cynical'.

The funds will pay for scholarships for Afghan women, probably explaining the reaction of Action on Smoking and Health, who will see the donation as an attempt by British American Tobacco to win favour and sales in Afghanistan. The University claims that most of its staff and students feel that the benefits of funding women scholars from Afghanistan outweigh other considerations. The donation is one of 2,000 others received following the appeal.

It's unfortunate for anti-smoking authorities that tobacco companies have money to burn, but since tobacco companies are forbidden by law from advertising, thanks to anti-tobacco campaigns, it is hardly surprising when they employ more subtle forms of marketing (not that BAT describe their donation in such terms: they describe their corporate social responsibility fund as 'an end in itself').

Action on Smoking and Health concerns itself only with the evils of tobacco. No one else is accused of cynicism for donating to the scholarship fund, although with so many donors it would be hard to imagine that none of the others was a corporate donor with a potential market in Afghanistan.

It could be that there are insufficient 'ethical' funds in the pot to support all our philanthropic instincts. I support the University for attracting and employing a broad base of donations, without specific prejudice against accepting money from tobacco.

1 comment:

Bill Gibson said...

Height of hypocrisy from ASH