09 Mar 2015
However, neither paper was peer reviewed, and Philip Morris demanded to review the final study before the results could be published.
(Plain packaging, in which companies’ branding is completely removed from tobacco packs, was introduced in Australia in 2012. On 3 March the Irish Parliament voted to go ahead with the measure and the UK Parliament is expected to vote on plain packaging this month.)
Seven serious errors
Mr Diethelm, who is also FCA’s Geneva Representative, wrote to the university citing seven serious errors and issues in the study that undermine its findings, biasing it against public health. He called on the university to withdraw the papers from its website.
Otherwise, Philip Morris and the wider tobacco industry could continue presenting them as scientifically authoritative sources endorsed by a respectable academic institution, he argued, as they have done in their responses to the UK consultation on plain packaging in 2014.
“We want the papers to be retracted because they are defective,” said Mr Diethelm. “This is clearly another instance where the tobacco industry is corrupting academic research by financing biased results that end up in their favour, and by presenting the results in a misleading way.”
As reported in an online article in The Guardian a group of doctors also said that “both of these papers are flawed in conception as well as design, but have none the less been widely publicised as cautionary tales”.
At the time of writing the university had forwarded Mr Diethelm’s comments to an external expert for consideration.