All the way up to the 1980s and 1990s, the tobacco industry funded studies to challenge the consensus that Second Hand Smoke increases Cardiovascular Disease. According the World Health Organization, “The industry has refused to accept the now overwhelming consensus regarding the harm caused by second-hand smoke - instead it has denied and obfuscated, and sought to influence debate by buying up scientists on a spectacular scale.”
However, as the century came to close, scientific consensus caught up to the industry, and the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement forced Big Tobacco to shut down their primary source of scientific lobbying: the Tobacco Institute Incorporated.
Big Tobacco was not deterred. Instead of centralising their counter-science under one umbrella organisation, the industry employed various tactics to corner the scientific community and bring public opinion on their side. With regards to academic studies, different tobacco companies now privately fund or manipulate their own scientific studies to suppress tobacco’s negative effects. In fact, several researchers at Tobacco Control came to the conclusion that a major conflict of interest exists between the tobacco and health research industries.
According to UCSF researcher Stanton A. Glantz, “People should understand how hard the tobacco industry has worked to undermine scientific evidence…The tobacco industry's efforts at manipulating scientific literature as a way to serve their economic and political needs continues to this day.” Glantz notes that in his study of nearly 50 million secret tobacco-insider documents, he and his partner Elisa K. Tong found a longstanding effort to counter the evidence that second-hand smoke is dangerous and suppress any unfavourable results that appear in their own research. More recently, Glantz adds, “tobacco-company-funded studies have been conducted to support the development of so-called “reduced-harm” cigarettes”. These “reduce-harm” cigarettes have no evidence or credibility in reality, and their mythological status only highlights the almost comedic degree to which the industry is willing to go to protect their image.
In another study, Glantz examined two non-profit organisations and their connections to tobacco-funded studies. He found that both the Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO) and the Institute for Science and Health (IFSH) violated their core principle to act independently from the industries funding them: Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, respectively. In both cases, the respective organisations consulted the tobacco companies at various stages of the research process - a clear contradiction of the organisations’ fundamental ethics.
According to a major analysis published by the European Environment Agency, the tobacco industry uses four main tactics to do counter scientific consensus. First, they fund and publish their own research that supports its position. Next, they suppress and criticise existing research that does not support their position. Lastly, they either change scientific research, and when that fails, they release non-academic data to prove their opinion.
In the UK, only recently in 2013 did the British Medical Journal cease publishing research partly or fully funded by the tobacco industry - implying that it has likely published several studies spearheaded by tobacco industry executives. Thankfully, though perhaps too late, this trend is beginning to catch on in the world of academia.