A group of scientists and public health experts are to take legal action against the Times newspaper after it reported claims from a leading charity that they were in the pay of the tobacco industry.
The experts, who work in fields that aim to limit deaths and health complications caused by smoking, are looking to sue the Times for defamation following a story that termed them “experts making a packet”.
The Times has published an apology to one of the scientists cited, Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health. The correction stated that he had funded his own travel and accommodation costs at an industry-sponsored tobacco forum in Brussels and had not received any funding from tobacco or nicotine companies.
But other scientists say that the same apology was not extended to them and they claim they have been falsely accused of accepting “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”.
Lewis Silkin, a legal firm specialising in libel, will be acting on behalf of five scientists, including professor Karl Fagerström, an expert in addiction science. “My life’s work has been built on helping reduce the death toll from tobacco smoking. Yet The Times has portrayed me and my colleagues as hirelings of big tobacco,” he said. “The Times has chosen to traduce our reputations. Now it is time for the paper to profusely apologise or face a battle it will not win.”
Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London, the former government drugs policy adviser, was the lead author of a study that endorsed e-cigarettes and informed Public Health England. Some of the scientists named by the Times also worked on it with him.
Professor David Sweanor said: “My reputation has been trashed by The Times. Despite ample evidence of my independence, it claimed that I am beholden to big tobacco companies. It is like saying that Robin Hood was in the pay of the Sheriff of Nottingham. I have to fight this.”
The Times’s story reported that Cancer Research UK had criticised scientists who “accepted thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”. The scientists deny they did so.
Post time: 04-18-2017