Alex Massie

Craven Research Can’t Possibly Harm Your Throat

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It's entirely possible that the research cited in this New York Times story has been corrupted by the fact that it seems to have been sponsored, in part or at "arm's length" , by a tobacco company. That's fine. But I would have thought a more useful article would have spent its time demonstrating that this researcher's conclusions were, on the evidence, bunk rather than seeking to dismiss them on the grounds of where their funding came from. Or, to put it another way, can we expect the NYT, or any other newspaper, to treat smoking-related claims made by government or other branches of the health industry that have just an obvious agenda with quite the same degree of skepticism?

Of course smoking can help cause cancer and other nasty, painful diseases that can kill you. But if research sponsored by ASH or the American Cancer Society isn't immediately or automatically useless even if it doesn't endorse one's own particular prejudices then isn't it possible that the same could be true of research funded by cigarette manufacturers? In other words, the fact that research is "tainted" by tobacco money is not necessarily proof that an individual finding is bunk even if many previously such funded claims have been demonstrated to be. The same is true, of course, for government-sponsored conclusions.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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