Backlash forces university to drop big tobacco grant

Utrecht University has U-turned on a decision to accept a €360,000 (US$441,000) research grant from Philip Morris International last September to fund a study on cigarette smuggling, despite its public health importance and a guarantee of academic freedom for the lead researcher, Law Professor John Vervaele, writes Martin Enserink for Science Magazine.

The thinking was that “the tobacco industry is not illegal. The illicit tobacco trade is,” Vervaele said. But the announcement of the funding sparked fierce criticism from outside groups, including the associations of pulmonologists and oncologists and the Dutch Cancer Society, who said a university should not take money from an industry whose products kill an estimated seven million people annually.

On 17 January the university announced it would cut ties with Philip Morris International. But the company has a US$100 million programme to fight illegal trade by funding both research and enforcement and similar battles at academic institutions elsewhere are expected in the months and years ahead.
Full report on Science Magazine’s site