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Threatening public health: new documents shed light on PMI’s secret science

“Keep it a secret”: leaked documents suggest Philip Morris International, and its Japanese affiliate, continue to exploit science for profit.

Research carried out by Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) has uncovered new evidence of the manipulation of science for profit by the world’s largest international tobacco company.

The study, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, reveals information about the recent activities of Philip Morris International (PMI) and its Japanese affiliate, Philip Morris Japan (PMJ). The research casts doubt upon PMI’s claims that it has transformed and conducts ‘transparent science’.

A team of TCRG researchers examined 24 leaked documents to uncover this evidence. The documents were published by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and date from 2012 to 2020. The study, published in a paper led by Dr Sophie Braznell, concluded that “PMI continues to employ strategies to influence science at the expense of public health”.

The documents include evidence that PMJ provided funding to Kyoto University academics to carry out research into smoking cessation. There is also evidence that PMJ funded a life sciences consultancy, run by a Japanese academic, to build a network of experts through which PMI’s science, products and messaging could be promoted.

The study also builds on TCRG’s previous research on the manipulation of science for profit. To analyse the documents, the researcher’s used the Science for Profit Model which was developed by award-winning TCRG researcher Dr Tess Legg.

In addition to the paper, the research has contributed to work by STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

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Our TobaccoTactics team have produced an article covering the information in the leaked documents, PMJ’s wider activities and the larger implications of the case.

You can also find information on the tobacco industry’s long history of attempting to influence science in order to downplay evidence of the harms of its products on the TobaccoTactics website. Learn more about that here.

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The Bureau of Investigative Journalism have released an in-depth interview with the whistleblower who leaked the documents on PMI’s secret funding of science including a timeline of activities that lead to him blowing the whistle.

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