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Keywords:

  • Genetics;
  • legacy tobacco documents;
  • tobacco industry

ABSTRACT

Background New molecular techniques focus a genetic lens upon nicotine addiction. Given the medical and economic costs associated with smoking, innovative approaches to smoking cessation and prevention must be pursued; but can sound research be manipulated by the tobacco industry?

Methodology The chronological narrative of this paper was created using iterative reviews of primary sources (the Legacy Tobacco Documents), supplemented with secondary literature to provide a broader context. The empirical data inform an ethics and policy analysis of tobacco industry-funded research.

Findings The search for a genetic basis for smoking is consistent with industry's decades-long plan to deflect responsibility away from the tobacco companies and onto individuals' genetic constitutions. Internal documents reveal long-standing support for genetic research as a strategy to relieve the tobacco industry of its legal responsibility for tobacco-related disease.

Conclusions Industry may turn the findings of genetics to its own ends, changing strategy from creating a ‘safe’ cigarette to defining a ‘safe’ smoker.