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Undermining Scientific Integrity: The Tobacco Industry’s Renewed Attack on Research and Reality

Join Truth Initiative for a virtual discussion about how researchers, scientific journals, media publications and regulatory agencies can protect the integrity of credible public health research.

October 25, 2022 | On Demand
The tobacco industry's renewed attack on research and reality

The tobacco industry is boldly intent on rehabilitating its image in response to the existential threat posed by the long-term decline of its deadly core product — combustible cigarettes. A product that is still marketed aggressively with trillions consumed each year around the world. To obfuscate this, tobacco companies are overtly co-opting the language and look of public health organizations to make claims about the health impact of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, and nicotine products that are not supported by peer-reviewed research. These tactics have led to tobacco companies presenting opinion and commercially influenced perspective as fact at scientific conferences and in paid advertising in prestigious media outlets. This Truth Initiative Impact Series will explore how researchers, policymakers, media companies and thought leaders can work to end the influence of the tobacco industry and the harms of its products.

As detailed in the Truth Initiative report “Spinning a New Tobacco Industry,” the tobacco industry is compromising scientific integrity by sponsoring entire issues of prestigious research journals and participating in tobacco control research conferences, where they present tobacco industry-sponsored research alongside independent, credible public health science, and gain critical insight into tobacco control evidence and strategy.

In addition, the industry is infiltrating major news outlets. Truth Initiative research published in Tobacco Control shows that the companies Philip Morris International and Altria, the makers of Marlboro, spent nearly $12 million — a likely vastly understated amount — between January 2020 and August 2021 on corporate advertising concentrated in national newspapers, including the very same publications that made a commitment 20 years ago not to accept tobacco industry advertising. The sponsored content closely resembles and appears near legitimate editorial content, clearly designed to leverage the influence and credibility of major news organizations to help the industry sell its self-interest story.

Moderated by Ben Stockton, an investigative journalist at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism who has reported on the tobacco industry and global health, this discussion will illustrate the absolute need for transparency in order to protect public health.

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Truth Initiative Impact Series

The Truth Initiative Impact Series is a robust, recurring event that brings together key stakeholders and experts to engage in thought-provoking conversations about ways we can innovate and inspire action to achieve a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping, and nicotine. The goal of this thought leadership series is to convene diverse partners in tobacco control and other public health organizations, parents, teachers, and policy makers, who can benefit from Truth Initiative’s work.