Document analysis of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s scientific outputs and activities: a case study in contemporary tobacco industry agnogenesis

Tess Legg, Bryan Clift, Anna Gilmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Background: Tobacco corporation Philip Morris International launched the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), a purportedly independent scientific organisation, in 2017. We aimed to systematically investigate FSFW’s activities and outputs, comparing these with previous industry attempts to influence science, as identified in the recently developed typology of corporate influence on science, the Science for Profit Model (SPM). 

Design: We prospectively collected data on FSFW over a 4-year period, 2017–2021, and used document analysis to assess whether FSFW’s activities mirror practices tobacco and other industries have historically used to shape science in their own interests. We used the SPM as an analytical framework, working deductively to search for use of the strategies it identifies, and inductively to search for any additional strategies. 

Results: Marked similarities between FSFW’s practices and previous corporate attempts to influence science were observed, including: producing tobacco industry-friendly research and opinion; obscuring industry involvement in science; funding third parties which denigrate science and scientists that may threaten industry profitability; and promoting tobacco industry credibility. 

Conclusions: Our paper identifies FSFW as a new vehicle for agnogenesis, indicating that, over 70 years since the tobacco industry began to manipulate science, efforts to protect science from its interference remain inadequate. This, combined with growing evidence that other industries are engaging in similar practices, illustrates the urgent need to develop more robust systems to protect scientific integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalTobacco Control
Early online date3 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FSFW promotes the tobacco industry’s credibility and its role in science in diverse ways (strategy 18). First, FSFW frames tobacco industry involvement in science and policy as the ‘solution’, and its exclusion as counterproductive. FSFW’s (now former) president condemned ‘entrenched hostility towards industry’, arguing industry-funded research is ‘robust’ and should ‘not be shunned simply on the basis of who executed or funded it’. This stands in contrast to his previous statement (before taking up this post at FSFW) that ‘academic naivete about tobacco companies’ intentions is no longer excusable’. FSFW has misleadingly likened itself to tobacco control organisations which either receive no funds from the tobacco industry or are funded by legally binding tobacco industry payments to the US government. Although FSFW repeatedly asserts that it closely adheres to criteria laid out for using tobacco industry funding for research, the authors of these criteria have specifically indicated that it does not.

Funding Information:
Beyond scientific publications, FSFW’s funding of one major grantee launched several subgrantee organisations positioned as experts on the science and policy of tobacco, none of whom mentioned FSFW or PMI on their websites. In 2020, FSFW distributed grant funds to establish ‘The Lung Trust’, ‘for the application, receipt and administration of future grant awards’, suggesting the complex network of organisations indirectly funded by PMI is likely to become ever more opaque.

Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplemental information.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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