Conventional Wisdom

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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.”

3 thoughts on “Conventional Wisdom”

  1. Brian Dowd says:

    Excellent post! You are 100% correct. In order to do the research UCLA professor Edythe London could have gotten the funding from someone else. This is one way BIG tobacco tries to make nice, but they will never understand that they are hurting and in other cases killing people.

    Bravo on this post Andy, LIVESTRONG!

  2. Vicky says:

    Excellent post Andy!

    Excellent response Brian!

    May I add…The BIG tobacco companies are making too much money to want to understand. May we, the Livestrong Army, find a way to make them to understand.

  3. Jon says:

    The tobacco industry has a long history of funding research for the purpose of obfuscating what their product does to the customer, and to the people closest to the customer. This is a fact; that history is now well documented, and it is an ugly history.

    Research funded by the tobacco industry has been used by the tobacco industry to confuse the public, get people to doubt the effects of smoking, get people to doubt the effects of secondhand smoke.

    The tobacco industry has also bought “a seat at the table” this way. It uses its funding to give it the appearance of legitimacy. When researchers at Cal and UCLA and Harvard and Standford take Philip Morris money, Philip Morris splashes the Cal, UCLA, Harvard, and Stanford names all over its PR.

    These are all good and sufficient reasons to decide not to take money from Big Tobacco.

    But here’s an additional reason: it’s blood money. For every $40,000 you take, someone dies.

    Do the math: figure out industry profits per pack, and packs per death, and that’s the number you will get.

    So for instance, for Philip Morris to give UCLA the $6 million for Edythe London, 150 people had to die.

    There is no other place Philip Morris got that money. There is no other way Philip Morris got the $6 million. The only way Philip Morris can give $6 million is to sell the cigarettes that kill 150 people.

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