A LEADING cancer charity is writing this week to all British universities for their views on how it can best disassociate its research funding from money given by tobacco companies.
Last year the Cancer Research Campaign announced a review of its relationship with Cambridge University after it emerged that the university had accepted a Pounds 1.5 million donation from British American Tobacco Industries to establish a chair in international relations.
Now the charity, which gives Pounds 47 million in research grants per year, has compiled a draft code of conduct that would require organisations accepting its grants to guarantee they would not take tobacco cash.
It is keen to consult with universities before finalising the document.
Gordon McVie, the charity's director general, said: "We are not going to be seen to be beside tobacco money. The question is, is that going to be at department, faculty or university level? That is why we are consulting universities at this stage - we want a wider discussion with them."
The consultation document is being sent to all vice chancellors, even though only about 20 UK universities receive grants from the Cancer Research Campaign.
The charity believes it will be another year before its final code of practice comes into being.
"We are taking our time," Professor McVie said. "We want a document which other medical charities can sign up to."
He said a significant number of universities accepted tobacco cash for research. Tobacco companies were keen to win "respectability", Professor McVie said, and "to buy influence" by being seen to support research.
Clive Turner, of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, called the charity's stance "patronising".
He said: "This is an example of health fascism at its worst. People who are likely to be recipients of such money are very able to decide whether it is ethical or not. They don't want people standing on the moral high ground telling the rest of the world how to behave. I think they should go away and get real."
Mr Turner added that such attitudes had "stunted some great research in the past and made responsible recipients of grants feel uncomfortable".