October 16, 2013

BMJ to Tobacco Industry: Get Out and Take eCigs With You

Don't expect to see any further e-cigarette research to make its way into the esteemed journal BMJ. Today, the journal confirmed in a post that it will no longer publish research funded by the tobacco industry. In guilt by association news, the BMJ also stated via Twitter that it considers e-cigarettes to be part of the same industry.

Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

As editors of the BMJHeartThorax, and BMJ Open we have decided that the journals will no longer consider for publication any study that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry. Our new policy is consistent with those of other journals including PLoS Medicine, PLoS One, PLoS Biology1Journal of Health Psychology; journals published by the American Thoracic Society; and the BMJ’s own Tobacco Control.

Critics may argue—as many did when journals stopped publishing cigarette adverts—that publishing such research does not constitute endorsing its findings and that, as long as funding sources are fully disclosed, readers can consider that information and make up their own minds about the quality of the work. Peer review should prevail, goes this line of thinking: it’s not the editor’s job to make these kinds of judgments. However, this view ignores the growing body of evidence that biases and research misconduct are often impossible to detect and that the source of funding can influence the outcomes of studies in invisible ways.

My request for clarification on why the decision to include e-cigarettes in this decision was not immediately returned by BMJ. It is also unclear what will constitute industry sponsored research for e-cigarettes since much of the research is independent and funded by the community.

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