Seeing through the smoke screen 73

Little wrongdoing seems to surprise us these days or appears unacceptable anymore.

But we refuse to accept it and are glad to know we’re in good company at WVU’s School of Public Health.

Clearly, the commercial and political worlds virtually go hand in hand these days.

Yet, we like to think some institutions in our society are not for sale, including our universities.

Last week, 17 public health schools in the U.S. and Canada refused to accept research money from an anti-smoking group funded by Philip Morris International.

Turns out one of those schools that said no to the “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World” was WVU.

Of course, some will say, “Isn’t that what the university’s School of Public Health should do?” — the right thing.

Wouldn’t to do otherwise be a conflict of interest? Or at the very least the appearance of one?

Not to mention Philip Morris’ certain conflict of interest in creating such a foundation.

The so-called Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was launched in September with about $1 billion from Philip Morris. Its goal is reportedly to end smoking worldwide and support research to meet that goal.

Sure, and next week the mining industry is going to create a foundation to expand the use of renewable energy.

And by the way, our newspaper is planning a campaign to encourage people why they should stop reading.

A statement signed by the 17 deans, including WVU’s Dr. Jeffrey Coben, said that if Philip Morris wants to end smoking, it should stop selling and advertising cigarettes.

“Further, both the tobacco industry and Philip Morris International have a long history of funding ‘research’ in ways meant to purposely confuse the public and advance their own interests,” the statement said.

Smoking rates remain high in West Virginia, at about 24.8 percent — nearly 10 percent higher than the national average, 15.5 percent.

And that’s after the state’s Bureau of Public Health recently reported that adult smoking rates dropped nearly 4 percent from 2011-’16.

We are skeptical whether this refusal to accept the tobacco industry’s scam signals a larger trend by WVU or most other universities nationwide.

Yet, we are encouraged by this response from WVU’s School of Public Health.

It’s imperative that WVU analyze and review any and all potential conflicts of interest related to its researchers.

We suspect that a host of industries never tire of trying to win backhanded endorsements and unscrupulously fund shell groups to tempt researchers to sell their souls.

Still, as complicated as it is to maintain an institution’s or an individual’s integrity, it’s still far easier than recovering it if it’s lost.

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