Philip Morris External Research Program

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Philip Morris' External Research Program (PMERP) was started in 2000, two years after the cigarette maker was required by the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement to disband two previous industry-wide external research programs, the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) and the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR). These two entities were largely considered to be public relations research front groups for the tobacco industry which allowed tobacco companies to claim they were researching the causes of diseases linked to smoking, while they were in fact actually funding research to help confuse the public about the scientific consensus about the health hazards of cigarette smoke.

Center for Indoor Air Research By Another Name

An article from a 2001 issue of the peer-reviewed public health journal Tobacco Control, compared the structure of Philip Morris' External Research Program (PMERP), to the structure of CIAR. The authors state that the structures of the two organizations are the same. Moreover PM's "Research Management Group," which was charged with managing PMERP, has CIAR's former address in Maryland, and former CIAR director Max Eisenberg was the designated contact person for inquiries about the PMERP program. CIAR was known for producing research that favored the tobacco industry, and analysis of PM documents indicated that PMERP may be a reconstitution of the former CIAR, but with different research mandates. The article does caution that scientists who participate in PMERP aren't necessarily openly, secretly or naively pro-tobacco in any way, but states that "scientists accepting tobacco industry funding must consider the ethics of their actions." <[1]

Researchers have noted that PMERP’s Request for Applications, while appearing to be concerned with new product development, is in fact very similar to that of its predecessor, CIAR. A study published in 2006 in Tobacco Control journal found that the majority of designated peer-reviewers in the PMERP had previous ties to the tobacco industry and the research solicitation seemed to invite studies that would mitigate evidence concerning the health risks posed by cigarettes and smoke constituents. It appears that a prime reason for PM starting its External Research Program was to garner scientific credibility for PM. [2] [3]

In March 2008 PM quietly disbanded the controversial program. The funds doled out by the program were substantial: in the 2006-07 fiscal year, the University of California system alone received around $16 million through PMERP. The end of the program comes amid growing controversy over whether universities should accept tobacco money at all. A number of prominent research institutions have enacted policies specifically prohibiting tobacco company funding for research. Whether the end of PMERP will have any real impact is unknown though, since PM has said it will continue providing universities with research funds, just not through its External Research Program. [4]

External Resources

Participants in PMERP

Other SourceWatch Resources


  1. N. Hirschhorn, S. Aguinaga Bialous, S. Shatensetin, "Philip Morris' new scientific initiative: an analysis", Industry Watch, Tobacco Control, 2001;10:247-252.
  2. Norbert Hirschhorn, S Aguinaga Bialous and Stan Shatenstein, "The Philip Morris External Research Program: results from the first round of projects", Volume 15, Tobacco Control 2006, pp. 267-269.
  3. Norbert Hirschhorn, "Philip Morris' new scientific initiative : an analysis", Tobacco Control Online, Volume 10, 2001, pp.247-252.
  4. Kelly Fitzpatrick, "Tobacco Company Ends UC Funding", The Daily Californian, March 3, 2008.

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