Friday, 3 June 2011

Cancer Research urges Durham University to give back tobacco company money

Further to this story, Cancer Research UK has advised Durham University to return the donation that it received from British American Tobacco.

From the point of view of CRUK, it seems that tobacco company money, uniquely among the gifts from over 2,000 donors to the Durham University scholarship fund, is likely to have been given solely and cynically to promote the sales of tobacco in Afghanistan. All other donors are of course completely above board, without any ulterior motive, no corporate responsibility brownie points or prospective markets in Afghanistan (the beneficiaries of the fund are Afghan women scholars). Among all the people who have donated money, only the tobacco donation demonstrates the true evil of capitalism, where every apparently generous act is ultimately a selfish one, and all the other donors are innocent philanthropists.

Cancer Research UK funds studies on cancer. I wouldn't claim that its tobacco research forms a significant share of all the research it funds, but Cancer Research UK indicates that applicants for research grants in tobacco must follow a research agenda that favours tobacco restrictions. This seems to me back to front: announcing the policy prescriptions of the research before research has been done. In order to get the research money you have to accept a certain conclusion before even starting. You will get money for twisting the data to fit CRUK's ideas about tobacco policy, but not for mounting an effective challenge to it. For example, such a challenge could point out that if policies are too restrictive, criminals will get a foothold on the market with unregulated tobacco, which is potentially more dangerous to human health than regulated tobacco.

This is why I would quarrel with Cancer Research UK's claim that 'tobacco cash is bad for your moral health'. Cancer Research UK has no brief to lecture people about their morals. I don't consider their conditions for tobacco research grants particularly ethical.

1 comment:

Xopher said...

Why would anyone pay £9,000 a year to study subjects that have predetermined outcomes?
Go to the ASH website - soak up out the 'truth' - call yourself an expert - rehearse the patter - spew out the bias - peer review a couple of studies - get yourself a website and ---- the worlds's your oyster without any student debts.