Dr. Ruth Malone (Professor and Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco) penned this smart and terrific letter when, in 2013, she was invited by the Food & Drug Administration to a “facilitated dialogue” between health researchers and tobacco companies.
- “I was very surprised to be invited to present as part of an FDA-sponsored “Facilitated Dialogue” panel also featuring tobacco industry representatives, which would be focused on the topic of industry-funded research. This very type of industry engagement with senior public health figures is straight out of the tobacco companies’ public relations “corporate social responsibility” playbook and was something that at least one tobacco company anticipated as a favorable result of FDA legislation.”
- “Involving the tobacco companies as “stakeholders” on a panel with the public health community in this way suggests that all parties share a common or at least congruent goal. This is a flawed assumption. Public health advocates (and presumably the FDA) have a stake in saving lives. Tobacco companies have a stake in protecting profit”.
- “To engage the industry as a legitimate partner in the discussion of how to deal with industry science is to ignore this large body of evidence.”
- “Such engagements have long been envisioned by tobacco companies as facilitating their image reform efforts while creating divisions within the tobacco control community.”
- “The FDA may be required to interact with the industry for the purposes of discussing proposed regulation of tobacco products and what tobacco companies must do to comply. The FDA is not, however, required to “facilitate” dialogue as though it were acting as a neutral mediator between two parties with equally valid but divergent interests. In positioning itself as some sort of neutral party, FDA is unwittingly acting as an agent for the tobacco industry’s public relations initiatives and undermining a strong tobacco control strategy. This is very problematic and to those of us who have spent more than a decade researching industry strategies, enormously naive.”