Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Charity Cancer Research UK's income drops

Who knows what has caused this drop in the income of Cancer Research UK – whether it is another symptom of the recession or whether other considerations play a part. As we enter a day when record public sector strikes are expected, it is clear that much of the general public, who fund charities, are under severe and continuing financial pressure.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a specific gripe with this page from the Tobacco Advisory Group on the CRUK web site, in which they virtually dictate the results of any study that they fund on tobacco:
TAG particularly funds research and activities that support:
  • Current UK policy priorities, e.g. see the 'Beyond Smoking Kills' report.
  • Greater regulation of all products containing tobacco and nicotine.
  • Greater tax and/or smuggling measures in the UK.
  • Tackling health inequalities and addressing the needs of groups with particularly high rates of tobacco use.
The only way to describe this is policy-led research: in other words it is politically motivated – not led by an open-minded investigation of the science surrounding tobacco and health, but led by the desire to restrict tobacco consumption. If anybody wonders about the sheer volume of studies that emerge on a weekly basis on tobacco this kind of agenda will help to explain it, along with the likes of TRDRP in the US. Funds exist solely to ensure that studies with a specific anti-tobacco agenda see the light on a daily basis.

In Scotland, the Tobacco Advisory Group of Cancer Research UK has been particularly active, contributing significantly to major policy papers on which the Scottish Government is expected to base its tobacco policy – this information is obtained by searching Sheila Duffy (ASH Scotland) on the CRUK site. Search Deborah Arnott (Action on Smoking and Health in London) and you will get similar results

I also don't think a charity should be writing government policy on tobacco control. ASH Scotland is a voluntary organisation that calls itself a charity, which employs (at last count) 27 personnel and has collected nearly £1 millions in Scottish government grants in recent years. (This submission responds to a call for evidence from the Scottish Government's finance committee for 2012/13, and seems to say in outline that they need money to discourage people from smoking, and yet more money to ascertain whether the money they spent in the first place was effective.) It is effectively a substantial arm of the government (last I was aware, there were only four staff at Administrative Officer level or above dealing with illegal drugs in the Scottish Government, plus secretarial support). Already heavily funded by the Scottish Government, ASH Scotland gets additional support from Cancer Research UK. This, to me, is an improper use of resources contributed to charity.

I would be interested to know whether Eddie (comment #1) is correct in his supposition that the public's awareness of this use of Cancer Research UK's money has contributed significantly to its decline in fortunes . I haven't purchased anything in a CRUK shop since I became aware of the extent of its policy-led anti-tobacco funding. I don't mind scientists discovering that tobacco is dangerous if they approach their research in an open-minded way, but I do mind it when a result justifying further restrictions on the tobacco trade is made a condition of funding of this research (it can't even be called medical research if these are the conditions set). 


Pat Nurse MA said...

I know people who stopped donating to CRUK when they realised the org was more concerned in trawling in free state money, by jumping aboard the anti-smoker propaganda gravy train, more than it appears to actually fund research into what causes cancer for both smokers and non smokers and how to cure it.

I tell people if they want to help cancer patients, donate to Marie Curie.

James said...

Like others, my problem with them is that their name is deceptive. You assume your money goes to research in treating cancer when it is actually spent on propoganda.