How to identify science being bent: the tobacco industry's fight to deny second-hand smoking health hazards as an example

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Oct;75(7):1230-5. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.03.057. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Social studies of science have produced a critical description of science that challenges traditional ideas about "objectivity" and "neutrality". Given evidence that scientific tools have been used to undermine solid science against the interests of the general public as opposed to protecting society from findings prematurely declared to be facts, this article asks: how can one differentiate between the usual proceedings of scientists and deliberate attempts to distort science? In order to respond to this question, the author presents systematic studies of the distortion (or "bending") of science, with special attention to the role of public relation firms in the process. Drawing on examples from the tobacco industry, the article concludes that there are two key features of the tobacco industry case that indicate that distortions in science may have taken place: the fact that controversies surrounding tobacco has been centered in public forums, and legal or regulatory arenas more than scientific domains; and the presence of conflicts of interest in authorship and funding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Conflict of Interest
  • Humans
  • Public Relations*
  • Science*
  • Tobacco Industry*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution