Seeking to be seen as legitimate members of the scientific community? An analysis of British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International’s involvement in scientific events

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For decades, tobacco companies manipulated and misused science. They funded and disseminated favourable research and suppressed research that showed the harms of their products, deliberately generating misinformation. While previous work has examined many of the practices involved, their engagement in scientific events has so far not been systematically studied. Here, we examine the involvement of British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI) in scientific events, including conferences, symposia and workshops.

Our analysis involved two steps. First, we collected all available data PMI and BAT provided on their websites to identify events. Second, we extracted information about the nature of tobacco industry involvement from event websites and materials.

We identified 213 scientific events that BAT and/or PMI representatives attended between April 2012 and September 2021. Most events took place in high-income countries in Europe and North America. They covered a diverse range of fields, including toxicology (n=60, 28.1%), medicine (n=25, 11.7%), biology (n=24, 11.3%), chemistry (n=23, 10.8%) and aerosol science (n=18, 8.5%), as well as dentistry (n=9, 4.2%), pharmaceutical science (n=8, 3.8%) and computing (n=8, 3.8%). We identified 356 posters provided by BAT and PMI that linked to 118 events (55.4%) as well as 77 presentations from 65 events (30.5%). Industry involvement through sponsorship (nine events), exhibition (three events) or organising committee (one event) was rare.

BAT and PMI representatives attended a large number and wide range of scientific events. Given that scientific events could be a crucial platform for building connections in the scientific sphere and disseminating industry’s messages, this work highlights the importance of denormalising the tobacco industry’s involvement in scientific events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalTobacco Control
Early online date3 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Bloomberg Philanthropies SPECTRUM Consortium - MR/S037519/1

Funding Information:
To address the overwhelming evidence of the tobacco industry’s scientific misconduct, several measures were taken. For example, the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement ordered the dissolution of three tobacco industry research bodies (Council for Tobacco Research (formerly Tobacco Industry Research Committee), Tobacco Institute, Centre for Indoor Air Research). The 2006 Kessler verdict banned US-based tobacco companies from reconstituting the form or function of these bodies given their role in fraudulently deceiving the American public. Several reputable health journals, including some BMJ journals (such as Tobacco Control) and PLoS journals, will no longer consider tobacco industry-sponsored research; research funders such as Cancer Research UK, the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Irish Health Research Board and the Wellcome Trust adopted policies to protect the work they fund from association with tobacco industry interests; and several universities have policies precluding acceptance of tobacco industry research funding with some also now rejecting funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), a recently established industry scientific front group. Some conference organisers, including the World and European Conferences on Tobacco or Health and, more recently, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) and the World Heart Federation, have adopted policies seeking to exclude industry from their events.

Funding Information:
This project, and the time of BKM, SD, LL, KS and ABG, were funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products project funding ( AF was supported by the SPECTRUM Consortium (MR/S037519/1), which is funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP). UKPRP is an initiative funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, Natural Environment Research Council, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland), The Health Foundation and Wellcome.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Author(s). Published by BMJ.


  • denormalization
  • global health
  • tobacco industry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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