• June 15, 2024

Trust in Industry-Funded Science Growing: Study

 Trust in Industry-Funded Science Growing: Study
Photo: BAT

Public trust in tobacco industry-funded scientific research is growing, according to a new study co-authored by researchers in the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, University of Colorado and University of Bristol.

The researchers aimed to understand the extent to which the public trusts Philip Morris International’s involvement in science. They asked 1,580 U.K. residents were asked to rate their level of trust in: PMI, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (recently rebranded as Global Action to End Smoking), or Cancer Research UK (CRUK), on a scale from 1 (no trust) to 7 (complete trust). CRUK was selected as a control group as a highly trusted scientific organization, wholly independent from the tobacco industry.

Overall trust in PMI was 4.66, compared to 5.79 out of 7 in CRUK. Overall trust for the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was 5.04. After participants were informed that FSFW is funded by the tobacco industry, the overall trust rating dropped to 4.77.

“This work is important because tobacco companies use their involvement in science as ‘proof’ that they are credible research organizations,” said lead author Tess Legg in a statement. “They also funnel research funds through third-party companies and historically this has involved attempts to obscure their involvement in the resulting science.”

The study’s authors warn against acceptance of tobacco industry funding and dissemination of scientific findings

“As it stands, FSFW still has an immense amount of money from PMI at its disposal and so the risk of it continuing to further the industry’s interests is high,” Legg said. “Our findings suggest that more needs to be done by the tobacco control and public health communities to help the U.K. public understand how underhand the tobacco industry’s attempts to rebrand really are, and to stop scientific front groups from muddying the water by lending the industry an air of credibility.”