Tobacco industry scientific advisors: serving society or selling cigarettes?

Am J Public Health. 1991 Jul;81(7):839-42. doi: 10.2105/ajph.81.7.839.


According to industry documents, the tobacco industry has executed a "brilliantly conceived" strategy to "creat[e] doubt" in the public's mind about whether cigarette smoking is in fact a serious cause of disease. A component of this strategy has been the funding of scientific research "into the gaps in knowledge in the smoking controversy." Grant review and selection are performed by a group of independent scientists. Knowledgeable observers believe that the existence of this research funding program in general, and the Scientific Advisory Board in particular, is intended by the industry to reinforce doubts in the public mind about the severity of the hazards posed by smoking. Because the Advisory Board has never taken a public stance against the industry's position that the causal relationship between smoking and disease remains unproven, I polled these scientists to determine whether they believed that smoking is a cause of lung cancer. Despite repeated opportunities, only four of 13 board members responded, all affirmatively; two others have expressed their judgment that smoking causes lung cancer in their professional publications. Thus, over half of the Board members, and the Board as a whole, have not gone on record as rejecting the industry's "party line." It might be hoped that the American scientists would follow the lead of the members of a similar body of scientists in Australia who have taken a strong and public stand against the industry position that smoking is not an established cause of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / methods
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Causality
  • Consultants / psychology*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Industry / organization & administration*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Research Support as Topic / economics*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco*