In the United States, the world's largest cigarette producer, the tobacco industry has been traditionally in the forefront of research on smoking. Why? Because scientists operate with such "rigorous" standards of causation that their incapacity to assert any causal links between smoking and lung cancer without an indefinite number of experiments serves as the ultimate bulwark against policymakers who would dare suggest that cigarettes be banned altogether. Instead of ensuring a steady stream of funds for scientific research, Wolpert would do better to deploy his considerable talents to identify ways in which appeals to "more research" operate as delaying actions in debates that would be better resolved by political means.
Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Durham