Misconducted Tobacco-Funded Research?

Nature reports new developments on the UC Board of Regents’ deliberation as to whether to ban all tobacco industry funding of “research” in the UC system …

From: Nature 446, 242 (15 March 2007), Rex Dalton

“Officials at the University of California are in the throes of a debate on whether to ban research grants from tobacco companies. The discussion has now sparked an independent review of a controversial 2003 report that contested the dangers of second-hand smoke.

… The new review concerns a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that said spouses of smokers were no more likely to die of lung cancer and heart disease than were spouses of non-smokers (J. E. Enstrom and G. C. Kabat Br. Med. J. 326, 1057; 2003). The study, led by epidemiologist James Enstrom of the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at 118,000 subjects from a study set up by the American Cancer Society beginning in 1959.

But top scientists at the cancer society say they repeatedly warned Enstrom of possible deficiencies in his analysis — particularly a 25-year gap in which exposure to second-hand smoke could not be verified. The society also says that when it gave Enstrom computerized records of study subjects, it was not aware that he was receiving funding from the tobacco industry. Later tobacco-related lawsuits revealed he had received money from industry funnelled through an organization called the Center for Indoor Air Research. And court records show Enstrom previously did consulting and research for attorneys defending the tobacco companies R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris.

In August 2006, a US federal judge cited the BMJ study as a prime example of how nine tobacco companies engaged in criminal racketeering and fraud to hide the dangers of tobacco smoke. The tobacco companies dispute the judge’s decision, which they are appealing.

… officials at the cancer society sent a seven-page list of what they cited as issues with the BMJ article.

… Officials at the Los Angeles campus “will conduct a thorough review of the documents”, he wrote, and “will take further steps to determine whether any research misconduct took place.”

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