A top United States-based tobacco magnate who has raised millions of dollars for Cambridge University will be awarded an honorary doctorate next month.
The revelation comes during a week when the university's anti-smoking lobby is putting pressure on the vice chancellor to reject a Pounds 1.6 million donation by cigarette giant BAT Industries.
Hamish Maxwell, a former chairman of Philip Morris, manufacturers of Marlboro, number one selling cigarette in the United States, is to be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws.
Mr Maxwell, a Cambridge graduate and honorary fellow of Trinity Hall, is the university's leading fundraiser in the US. He is chairman of the American Friends of Cambridge University, a charity regularly raising around $4 million a year for some 150 projects across the university. He has also made personal donations totalling more than $1 million.
A Cambridge spokesperson said: "He has been a very valued supporter of the university over a number of years."
The published announcement of the award made no mention of Mr Maxwell's tobacco links, and the university's anti-smoking lobby was unaware that it will take place. "It's the first I've heard of it," said Kay-Tee Khaw, a medicine professor and leading campaigner against the BAT Industries donation.
But she hinted that, although she had objected to the money for a professorship honouring Sir Patrick Sheehy, the former chairman of Philip Morris's rival company BAT Industries, she would not be campaigning against Mr Maxwell's award.
Nick Day, another medicine professor, confirmed that the anti-smoking campaigners would probably not challenge the university over Mr Maxwell.
"This is not something I would go to the barricades over," he explained, adding that "just because he was head of Philip Morris doesn't mean he hasn't done other things which are actually quite laudable".
Michael Prideaux, a spokesperson for BAT Industries, expressed surprise that Cambridge was ready to honour one tobacco chairman and not the other, even though Sir Patrick Sheehy is credited with bringing the Pounds 3 million Royal Commonwealth Library to Cambridge. "I just wish people would be consistent," he said.