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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health

Building capacity for a tobacco-free world

July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 2:45 PM

Subjugating science, shaping regulation: tobacco industry influence on research in Thailand

Ross MacKenzie, Centre on Global Change and Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, United Kingdom and Jeff Collin, PhD, Centre for International Public Health Policy, University of Edinburgh, Medical Buildings, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Objective: To analyse tobacco industry efforts to influence scientific research on smoking and health in Thailand.

Methods: Analysis of previously confidential tobacco industry documents.

Results: Previous studies have described TTC strategies to confound public and official perceptions of the relationship between smoking and health in Southeast Asia. Key tactics include the formation of the Asian environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) consultants programme in the late 1980s, and the Asian regional tobacco industry science team (ARTIST) in the mid-1990s.

The specific impact of these regional projects in Thailand, a key emerging market and a world leader in tobacco control, remains largely unexamined. Tobacco industry documents reveal that ostensibly independent overseas scientists, now identified as industry consultants, have built relationships with the Thai scientific community.

Perhaps most crucially, Philip Morris consultant Roger Walk has established close connections with an internationally recognised Thai research facility where he has been involved in consultancy work and curriculum design on the institution's environmental toxicology programme. Walk's association with the institute has enabled him to establish contacts with other individuals and institutions examining issues related to smoking and health. Sensitivities surrounding patronage of the institution make public criticism of this relationship an extremely delicate matter.

Tobacco industry documents demonstrate that local application of global TTC strategies to confound the scientific discourse on smoking and health have met with considerable success in Thailand. The continuing association of industry scientists and consultants with a Thai research institution in particular, holds lessons for the rest of the region.