Attempt to halt tobacco funding

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A leading cancer charity is to mount a campaign to prevent tobacco companies gaining respectability by supporting research.

The Cancer Research Campaign, which gives pounds 47m of scientific grants a year, has said it will not give funds to organisations that accept money from the tobacco industry.

The charity has drawn up a draft code of practice that would require organisations accepting its grants to guarantee they would not take tobacco cash. Professor Gordon McVie, the charity's director-general, said he hoped other grant-giving bodies would join the move to squeeze the tobacco companies out.

He said: "I feel the momentum is in the right direction. We have got to use our influence in as wide a fashion as possible to ensure others will follow."

The charity declared its intention to ban grant recipients from accepting tobacco cash last year after it emerged that Cambridge University, which receives around pounds 2m from the campaign, had accepted a donation of pounds 1.5m from British American Tobacco to establish a chair in international relations. Professor McVie said then that he was "bitterly disappointed" at the university's decision.

An unanswered question is how widely the prohibition would apply. Professor McVie said the target departments would be biology, medicine and biochemistry, but he hoped this list would grow. Some universities were already "clean" of tobacco money, such as Nottingham, but others, such as Bristol, were built on it.

A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said the industry had a long history of sponsorship which was not dependent on commercial advantage. "If you are making profits from selling a legitimate product and want to give something back to the community you should allowed to do so. It is sad that some people with a special interest want to deny others the benefit of that generosity," he said.