Medical journals refuse to publish tobacco-funded research

by Isabelle Knight & Reema Rattan, The Conversation

Editors of journals published by the BMJ Group will no longer consider publishing research that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry, the journals have said in an editorial published this week.

Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than five million deaths every year, and current trends show that it will cause more than eight million deaths annually by the year 2030.

Editor-in-chief of BMJ Open Trish Groves said editors of the BMJ, BMJ Open, Heart, and Thorax could no longer "ignore the growing body of evidence – from the 's released internal documents – that the industry continues to actively play down the risks of its products."

"What's worse is that have published potentially biased studies that were funded by industry, often without realising that research funding bodies that sounded independent and academic were largely paid for by industry."

Other journals that have previously introduced such bans include PLOS Medicine in 2010 and the journals published by The American Thoracic Society in 1995.

The journals' policy change comes in the wake of a recent scandal involving Phillip Morris in the United Kingdom where the government was considering mandating standard packaging for .

Leaked confidential documents showed the company was using a sophisticated lobbying campaign to target politicians and civil servants it believed would support its position against the move.

Professor of at Curtin University, Mike Daube said he had "huge respect" for the journals' decision.

"I think this is a really important step forward, it emphasises that should not be part of, or play any role in promoting tobacco companies and the tobacco industry."

Ethicist and professor of medicine at Monash University, Paul Komesaroff said the move raised questions about whether the ban should be extended to other industries.

"If this principle is adopted, a question then arises is how far further we take it, he said. "Clearly, there are other companies that are involved in activities that might be regarded as being contrary to public health."

Professor Mike Daube said there was a strong case for the journals to take a similar position with regard to the alcohol industry.

The journals have not ruled out banning research supported by other industries.

"We know already that other industries, such as 'Big Food' have followed suit in some of the ways they [the industry] lobby policymakers," Groves said. "If the evidence becomes strong enough that they have also distorted science, journal editors may consider similar bans on submissions of research funded by the food industry. But we're not there yet."

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Jim4321
1 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2013
Political views are being introduced into the editing of scientific work. This is dangerous and has the potential to subvert the scientific process that is based on objective analysis. Probably it is best to adopt an absolute standard: no political interference in the publishing of scientific studies.
freethinking
1 / 5 (9) Oct 16, 2013
I agree with you Jim that Political views are introduced into editing of scientific work and this should never happen.
If anyone is submitting a scientific study, let it be evaluated and published based on scientific merit alone.
Problem now is becoming, if it isn't created by politically correct entity producing the study or if the results are not politically correct, it won't be published.

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