How involved are tobacco companies in our lives? The day I found out that I was, unknowingly, paid by a tobacco company!

Our lives are constantly invaded by the tobacco industry, from the thousands of cigarette butts that litter our streets, to the passive smoking that we are sometimes forced to do, to the many relatives, neighbours, friends and patients (if we’re healthcare workers) that we encounter who suffer or die from the tobacco epidemic. Tobacco is everywhere! As for me, I discovered recently that tobacco has invaded my life more than I thought…..

About 30 years ago I finished my doctorate in Oxford, England, and was looking for a postdoctoral research position in the USA. My doctoral supervisor suggested a laboratory in Denver, Colorado, and he communicated with an excellent scientist there, who said he could find the funding for a postdoctoral research scientist to work in his department for three years.

So, when the news came that the research funding had been found, I was naturally excited and eventually moved to Denver, a city situated in a beautiful and scenic area of the USA, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.

During my three years in Denver, I did laboratory research on cancer cells that I grew in flasks in the laboratory. The research led to several publications in scientific journals, and at the end of the three years I returned to England to start another postdoctoral research project in London. This was the usual way of doing things, to do two three-year postdoctoral research projects following a doctorate.

During my time in Denver I had no idea where the funding for my research, which also included my salary, came from. My boss obtained the research funding and I did the research- that’s how it was.

Not too long ago, about 30 years since I did my postdoctoral research in Denver, I was perusing the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an online database of tobacco industry documents, to which I’ve already alluded (https://biochemdr1.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/tobacco-facts-3-did-you-know-you-can-access-tobacco-company-records/).

I noticed that tobacco companies kept, among their millions of documents, records of many scientific research papers, including many relating to cancer. My doctoral, as well as my postdoctoral, research in the USA involved basic biochemical research on cancer cells, so I did a search of my name to see if the papers I had published would appear among the Legacy Library documents.

Interestingly, four of the papers I had been an author on during my doctorate and postdoctorate were accessible through the tobacco documents library.

But, to my absolute astonishment, there were numerous other legacy documents that appeared with my name in them. When I checked these out, I discovered letters regarding my curriculum vitae and academic experience, as well as proposals for research grants that included my salary. I discovered that the three years’ salary that I was paid as a postdoctoral research scientist in Denver was a part of a large grant proposal that was funded by R.J.Reynolds tobacco company!

I spent three years being paid to do research by a tobacco company thirty years ago and had no idea about it until now!

Doesn’t this demonstrate how influenced we are by tobacco and the industry that produces, sells, advertises and markets it? Wherever we go, wherever we look, we are constantly reminded of, and influenced by, tobacco and it’s horrors.

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3 Comments

  1. Hello Doctor and thank you for sharing this info.
    You have made great contributions and big tobacco’s role was as a funding source. Your lack of knowledge of this proves you had unbiased results. Your work will live on as a source of information and warming to others to check your backers. You have brought many considerations the forefront and perhaps it makes your work that much more insightful and worthwhile.

    1. Dear Sherri: Thank you for those very encouraging comments. I checked your website and I am impressed with your credentials and experience regarding tobacco issues. I am sharing your Smokefree Steps, LLC website below:

      http://www.smokefreestepsllc.com/#

      We must all do what we can to conquer this insidious tobacco plague!

    2. Dear Sherri: Thank you for those very encouraging comments. I checked your website and I am impressed with your credentials and experience regarding tobacco issues. I am sharing your Smokefree Steps, LLC website below:

      http://www.smokefreestepsllc.com/#

      We must all do what we can to conquer this insidious tobacco plague!

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