Debate the sources of funding
Research is time consuming and is also very expensive and the source of fundings has always been a detrimental parameter to evaluate the seriousness of a study. This explains why some independent researchers like Konstantinos Farsalinos have sometimes recourse to crowdfunding initiatives for some research. But the goodwill of a community shouldn’t be the unique recourse for trustable science.
Many researchers in the domain of harm reduction view with a jaundiced eye studies carried out by Big Tobacco companies because of entanglements between promotion and scientific data. An history of deception about cigarettes makes restoring the reputation of cigarette manufacturers a real challenge.
Like researches conducted by Big Tobacco companies on their products are thought to reflect their benefits while they hide their risks, the same also applies with national agencies for health. The CDC or the FDA are suspected focus on the risk, to serve their own interests and disregard the benefits. This inevitably introduces a bias for third parties interested in both benefits and risks.
However, there is a crucial lack of and an urgent need for data in the domains of Aerosol Chemistry, Toxicology, Systems biology, Clinical, Perception & Behavioral and Post-Market Surveillance with regard to the newly marketed risk reduction products (RRPs) like the neat not burn cigarette iQOS.
To gain scientific knowledge or to verify PMI science
The scientific department of the tobacco leader, Philip Morris International, announces they launched a grant program called the Investigator Initiated Studies (IIS) Program to gain “scientific/medical knowledge or verify PMI science for our developed and commercialized RRPs“. This funding opportunity for independent researchers is believed to ensure a “transparent and independent advancement of RRP science“.
Philip Morris International set up a Idea Submission Portal for independent teams to submit their research proposals. Forthcoming deadlines for submissions in 2017 are January 15, April 15 and Sept 15. Subject should concern heat-not-burn cigarettes, e-vapor products, or other nicotine-containing products.
For some scientists like Prof Jean-François Etter or Dr Sally Satel, this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be discarded to conduct independent research on harm reduction products. Prof Etter defended this position during the Warsaw GFN2016, last May. Others are opposed this idea like the French pulmonologist, Bertrand Dautzenberg whose distrust of tobacco companies is built on years of medical practice with patients, smokers, suffering of lung cancers. If the Philip Morris’ endgame is to phase out cigarettes and replacing them with RRPs, their strategy to involve researchers makes sense and it may facilitate the process. If, in turn, PMI fails in its commitment of transparency and independency, it would be like shooting oneself in the foot.