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Ohio State University Should Reject Grant From Lorillard Tobacco Company

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 30, 2003

Washington, DC — It is disturbing and counterproductive to efforts to reduce the tremendous harm caused by tobacco use in this country that Ohio State University has chosen to accept a $6 million research grant from the Lorillard Tobacco Company. This grant is the latest in a long line of public relations initiatives by the tobacco industry aimed at creating the illusion that it is part of the solution to the tobacco problem when in fact it remains the major cause of the problem.

For decades, the tobacco industry has sought to fund seemingly worthwhile research into the cause of tobacco-related disease in an effort to divert attention from the fact that we already know the real cause – the industry’s own deadly products and harmful marketing practices. Would Ohio State University take money from an arsonist for research on preventing fires or from a drug cartel for research on preventing drug addiction? It is no more acceptable for Ohio State to help the tobacco industry divert attention from the real solutions to the problem of tobacco use, which are for the industry to fundamentally change its products and marketing and for government at all levels to enact measures proven to reduce tobacco use.

It is not surprising that a tobacco company would seek to use the good name of a reputable institution like Ohio State University to further its own selfish interests. Tobacco companies have done this repeatedly for close to forty years and always the industry’s goal appears to be the same: Convince the public that it is searching for the “real” causes of tobacco-related diseases and convince politicians that strong action to curtail the behavior of the tobacco industry is not necessary. But it is extremely disappointing that Ohio State University would ignore the long history of the tobacco industry’s abuse of these kinds of grants. By accepting this grant, Ohio State would become a partner in the cynical tobacco industry effort to buy legitimacy and absolve itself of responsibility for the more than 400,000 Americans killed by tobacco use every year and the more than 2,000 kids who become addicted every day. Any benefits from the research in question will be more than outweighed by the tremendous harm caused by helping the tobacco industry continue its deadly business as usual. We urge the trustees of Ohio State University to reject this grant.

In making their decision, the trustees should thoroughly examine Lorillard’s long and continuing history of opposing effective programs and policies to reduce tobacco use. Lorillard has filed lawsuits to stop some of the nation’s most successful tobacco prevention programs, including the national campaign by the American Legacy Foundation and the state of California’s pioneering program. It has consistently fought effective policies to reduce tobacco use, including cigarette tax increases, smoke-free workplace policies and meaningful regulation of tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is no coincidence that Lorillard’s Newport brand is used by more than 70 percent of African-American youth who smoke (according to the federal government’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health). This is a direct result of Lorillard’s sustained marketing campaign. Does Ohio State University want to participate in a smokescreen to divert attention from these harmful practices and Lorillard’s failure to do anything meaningful to reduce youth smoking or tobacco-caused disease and death?

By accepting the money from Lorillard, Ohio State University is once again choosing to associate itself with the tobacco industry, which is responsible for the deaths of 19,000 Ohioans each year and costs state taxpayers a staggering $3.4 billion in health care costs annually. Earlier this year, the University chose to take a $590,000 grant from Philip Morris, thereby making itself ineligible for a grant from Ohio’s Tobacco Use and Control Foundation to develop much needed smoking cessation programs.

Tobacco use is the nation’s – and Ohio’s – leading preventable cause of disease and death. The tobacco industry’s mission is to maximize its profits by selling more of the deadly products that cause this terrible toll. This mission is fundamentally incompatible with the goals of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.