I wrote earlier about how tobacco company documents, released as apart of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement proved that Philip Morris created junkscience.com to argue that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) was harmless. Those documents also tell the story of how they set up a scientific journal controlled by tobacco-friendly editors so that research finding that ETS was harmless could be published. In 1987 Philip Morris cam up with a plan (details in this document) to:
Establish a genuine scientific journal on indoor air quality. The journal could be issued four times a year at a cost of $100,000.
The journal they founded is Indoor and Built Environment. The journal does not mention that it was founded and funded by the tobacco industry. The whole story is detailed in a recent paper in the Lancet by Garne, Watson, Chapman and Byrne. They analysed the content of articles in Indoor and Built Environment and discovered:
61% (40/66) of papers related to environmental tobacco smoke that were published in Indoor and Built Environment in the study period reached conclusions that could be judged to be industry-positive. Of these, 90% (36/40) had at least one author with a history of association with the tobacco industry. These figures can be compared with Barnes and Bero’s study of 68 articles on environmental tobacco smoke randomly selected from MEDLINE published between 1980 and 1994, which found 76.5% concluding environmental tobacco smoke to be “harmful”, and the same authors’ analysis of 106 reviews of this same topic, which found that 74% of reviews concluding environmental tobacco smoke was not harmful were written by authors with tobacco industry affiliations.
Conveniently enough, Indoor and Built Environment did not require its authors to disclose interests such as tobacco company funding. Garne et als conclusion is rather understated:
On the basis of the evidence presented in this paper, there is a serious concern that the tobacco industry may have been unduly influential on the content of the journal. The industry and its lawyers expected that the establishment of the International Society of the Built Environment would publish “overall results [which] will be positive and important”. It appears to be the case that its expectations were in large part fulfilled.
I wonder what’s next? Perhaps the astroturfers will establish their own country where all the health organiziations agree that ETS is harmless.