Background: The tobacco industry has organised research institutions to generate misleading data on indoor air quality, including second-hand smoke exposure and health effects.
Objectives: To describe tobacco industry involvement in the organisation and financial support of an air quality research laboratory in El Salvador.
Methods: Tobacco industry documents on the internet were systematically searched from August 2007 to February 2008 for air quality studies undertaken in El Salvador, and laboratory personnel were interviewed.
Results: Philip Morris sought to establish a network of air quality laboratories throughout Latin America. In El Salvador, in 1997, through Tabacalera de El Salvador (a subsidiary of Philip Morris) and the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic Development (FUSADES), the industry organised an air quality research laboratory. FUSADES was part of the industry’s Latin American Scientific Network, which consisted of doctors hired as consultants who would send air samples from their research to FUSADES. Philip Morris Scientific Affairs personnel hired LabStat, a Canadian-based laboratory, to provide technical assistance to FUSADES (train and assist the laboratory in air quality measurements). In addition, the Washington-based HMS Group successfully implemented a plan to upgrade the laboratory and obtain international certifications. HMS Group also assisted in searching for sustainable funding for FUSADES, including seeking funds from international aid for Hurricane Mitch.
Conclusion: Air quality studies that have used the FUSADES laboratory should be carefully interpreted, given the support that this laboratory received from Philip Morris.
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