Tobacco giant drops demand to see research on teenage smokers
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Saturday 26 November 2011
The world's largest tobacco company has backed away from its demands to see thousands of confidential interviews with British teenagers gathered as part of a university research project into children's attitudes to smoking.
Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro, has quietly dropped its Freedom of Information request to see the interviews held by researchers at Stirling University, after the company was widely condemned following revelations by The Independent in September.
The tobacco company had to respond to the university's refusal to publish the interviews within 40 working days. Because Philip Morris has not responded within the required deadline, its two FoI requests have effectively lapsed – meaning that the company will now have to make a fresh application if it wants to pursue the matter.
"Over 40 days have elapsed since Philip Morris last communicated with the University of Stirling regarding research into smoking. On this basis we now regard that the correspondence on this particular request is now closed," the university said in a statement.
Philip Morris International attempted to make its first FoI request anonymously in September 2009, through the London law firm Clifford Chance. However, the Scottish information commissioner, Kevin Dunion, rejected the request on the grounds that Clifford Chance had to name its client – a legal clause not available under English law.
Under its own name, the tobacco giant then put in two further requests to Stirling's Institute for Social Marketing, led by Professor Gerard Hastings who said that Philip Morris wanted access to "everything we had ever done" on the attitudes and behaviour of children towards smoking and tobacco promotion.
"These are confidential comments about how youngsters feel about tobacco marketing. This is the sort of research that would get a tobacco company into trouble if it did it itself," Professor Hastings told The Independent this year.
The university initially refused the requests on the grounds that the claims were vexatious, which was rejected by Mr Dunion. It then claimed it would be too costly and time consuming, but Philip Morris even offered to pay for the added costs, an offer which the university refused.
Although the interviews are anonymised and the names of the children kept confidential, Professor Hastings said there was an understanding with the interviewees and their parents that the content of the interviews would remain confidential and would be shared only among university researchers.
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Holborn fire: Chaos as 2,000 people evacuated to escape toxic smoke filling central London
University of Cambridge: Remains of 1,300 scholars are found under building
April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
April Fools' Day 2015 live: The best pranks and fake stories from around the world
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Katie Hopkins reported to the police for race hatred by Labour MP Simon Danczuk after tweet about Pakistani men
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...