Editor calls for a tobacco-funding debate

June 1, 2001

A national debate is needed on the wider implications of the row over Nottingham University's acceptance of tobacco industry money, according to Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal who resigned as professor of medical journalism at Nottingham last week.

Mr Smith resigned his unpaid post as special professor after BMJ readers said he should do so in protest at Nottingham's acceptance of £3.8 million from British American Tobacco to fund a centre to study corporate responsibility.

Mr Smith said: "Nottingham's decision gives the tobacco industry a respectability it does not deserve."

His decision came two months after David Thurston, director of the university's Cancer Research Campaign gene-targeted drug design research group, resigned over the issue.

This week, Mr Smith said he was planning to press for a sector-wide debate on the ethics of sponsorship from organisations such as BAT.

He said he wanted to put pressure on Universities UK to consider it seriously. The UUK has so far backed Nottingham's view that the decision to take BAT money was in line with a protocol between the UUK and the Cancer Research Campaign.

Sir Colin Campbell, Nottingham's vice-chancellor, called the BAT funding debate "old news".

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