Upon reading the LA Times yesterday, the same thought kept running through my head, “There are just some things you should never do.” You should never trust a hungry dog to guard your food. You should never put in e-mail anything you don’t want forwarded to someone else. And you should never, NEVER take money from the tobacco industry!
In the article, “A Smoldering Controversy at UCLA,” UCLA professor Edythe London is reportedly leading a three-year study of teenagers who smoke and monkeys to hopefully discover new ways to help people quit smoking and treat other addictions. What I think she has actually done is tarnished her reputation immeasurably by accepting funds from Phillip Morris to conduct the research. In fact, the article goes on to report that UCLA officials say the idea for the study of teenagers and monkeys even originated with Philip Morris. When questioned about whether she was concerned the research might be used by the company to promote smoking, Dr. London replied, “That is not something we ever considered.” She said, “The representatives of Philip Morris were very sincere.”
Sincere? Never even considered? Conventional wisdom shows that the tobacco industry is in the business of selling tobacco and making a profit. You don’t even have to factor in the years of manipulating both the ingredients in tobacco to make it more additive and the research that downplays tobacco’s harmful effects to find the disconnect. The incongruence between selling tobacco and research to prevent its use seems like a huge red flag and reason enough to at least question their motives.
Even if Dr. London is right, and her research will only be used to prevent people from becoming addicted to tobacco, who in their right mind would believe research funded by tobacco interests? At the very least, Dr. London is wasting her time as the history of shoddy research funded by the tobacco industry will overshadow any new discoveries she and her team might make and I believe ultimately destroy her credibility.
At the Lance Armstrong Foundation, we have made the conscious decision not to accept funding of any kind from the tobacco industry. Even if the money were to be used to help those affected by cancer, the price to pay by aligning ourselves with an industry whose product kills when used as directed is too high. The trust that cancer survivors have placed in us to fight for them is too precious to risk. LIVESTRONG means too much to too many to sully it by aligning ourselves with the tobacco industry in any way. I can’t image that the supporters of UCLA don’t feel the same way.
While the harassment the article describes Dr. London experiencing is inexcusable, I think it does demonstrate a piece of conventional wisdom I was taught at an early age: “If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.”