Letter: Thousands of smokers stop

Sir: We deeply regret that pressure on Medical Research Council units to attract commercial funding has engendered a climate of contemplation, let alone acceptance, of funds from British American Tobacco ("PR head suspended in tobacco cash row", 29 August).

Sir Austin Bradford Hill and Sir Richard Doll, distinguished former directors of the MRC Biostatistics Unit, led the research team in the 1950s and 1960s whose work was seminal in defining the enormous harm to health caused by cigarette smoking.

From personal experience we endorse the praise reported by Nicholas Timmins of Mary Rice's singular contribution to public relations at the Medical Research Council. That her sound advice was not heeded on this occasion will, we trust, be soon righted and her position vindicated by the council.

NICHOLAS E DAY

WALTER R GILKS

SHEILA M GORE

ANTHONY L JOHNSON

PAUL G SURTEES

Cambridge

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