Monday, June 06, 2005

German health experts 'paid by tobacco firms'

From The Independent:

Leading German public health experts who played down the dangers of cigarettes - including one who argued that discrimination against smokers was like the Nazi persecution of the Jews - have been secretly financed for years by the tobacco industry, it has been alleged.

The claims were published yesterday by the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, which said four of the country's top medical research scientists had received millions of Deutschmarks for publishing biased reports about smoking during the 1980s and early 1990s. They were named as Jürgen von Troschke, the head of medical sociology at Freiburg University; Johannes Siegrist, a top medical scientist at Düsseldorf's Heinrich Heine University; the Augsburg University scientist Johannes Gostomzyk and the former head of the German Federal Health Office, Karl Überla.
Der Spiegel described [von Troschke] as an active opponent of discrimination against smokers who used a caricature of a smoker with a "sort of Jewish star" pinned on his breast to illustrate the "pogrom-mentality" of the anti-smoking lobby.
Dr Siegrist was said to have been persuaded by the tobacco giant RJ Reynolds to conduct research into whether smoking increased the risk of heart disease, but only if it was linked to professional stress factors. He was reported to have been paid DM300,000.
Karl Überla, the president of the German Federal Health Office during the 1980s, was alleged to have been persuaded by the tobacco industry to suspend judgement on a scientific report that argued for a ban on the inclusion of the toxic chemical Coumarin in cigarettes. Philip Morris and British American Tobacco made 36 million cigarettes containing the substance, Der Spiegel said. His office was said to have requested and been awarded DM1.6m by the tobacco industry to finance research on passive smoking.
Two of my favorite groups of people together again, the tobacco industry and bought-off medical researchers. Elegant touch of perversity on Professor von Troschke's part, that trivializing the Holocaust while publishing research promoting the use of lethal substances.


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