The firm donated £125,000 to fund scholarships at Durham for women from Afghanistan, but in a blog on the CRUK website, Robin Hewings, the charity’s tobacco control policy manager, says that “the tobacco industry’s record means academic institutions should have nothing to do with it”.
Mr Hewings argues that the industry “seeks to gain unwarranted respectability by association with credible bodies such as universities” and that “these kinds of donation aim to create an environment where there are soft government policies on tobacco”.
He says that CRUK operates a code of practice under which researchers cannot seek funding from the charity if they are working “in such proximity to others supported by tobacco-industry funding that there is any possibility or likelihood that facilities, equipment or other resources will be shared”.
“Spending £125,000 to seem like the kind of caring people who pay for Afghan women to study at university is small change to this company,” he adds. “But when 5,500 people die from smoking every year in the university’s region, Durham should return the money.”
A Durham spokesman said: “Durham University’s 2010 Chancellor’s Appeal to fund a programme of scholarships for Afghan women who would not otherwise have access to postgraduate education has been widely recognised as a pioneering scheme, helping the reconstruction of a war-torn country through women’s education.
“It enjoyed unprecedented success with more than 2,700 donors raising approximately £630,000. One donor was the Charities Aid Foundation fund of British American Tobacco.”