UC Regents Reject Ban on Tobacco-Funded Research
The UC Board of Regents on Thursday rejected a proposal to ban research funding from the tobacco industry but adopted new measures to increase the oversight of such research, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Under the new oversight rules, chancellors at each UC campus and faculty committees must review research proposals that seek funding from tobacco-affiliated companies (Lindelof, Sacramento Bee, 9/21).
The board also voted to require the UC president to submit annual reports to the regents summarizing all of the university's tobacco-funded research proposals (Burress, San Francisco Chronicle , 9/21).
In addition, the regents agreed to issue a statement urging researchers to "exercise the utmost care and to assure that their research adheres to the highest scientific and ethical standards" (Paddock, Los Angeles Times, 9/21).
UC researchers had 23 active tobacco-funded grants, totaling $16 million at the end of fiscal year 2006-2007. All of the grants are funded by Philip Morris USA.
Some regents argued that a ban would limit academic freedom and could lead to funding bans from other industries linked to controversial health effects (Sacramento Bee, 9/21).
The regents also voted Thursday to increase fees for the university's medical, law and other professional schools, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The increase ranges from about 4% to 15% each for the next three years (Burress, San Francisco Chronicle , 9/21). For example, fees would rise by about 7% each year at UCLA's medical and dental schools, as well as the UC-Irvine and UC-San Diego medical schools. By comparison, fees at UC-Riverside's medical school would increase by 4% annually once it opens in 2012 (Los Angeles Times, 9/21).
Some regents and administrators contend that higher fees are necessary to meet students' demands for more courses, modern facilities and smaller class sizes (Su, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/21).
Others argued that a public university should not be unaffordable for low-income and middle-class residents.
The fee hike also faced criticism for creating large disparities in the amounts charged at each campus, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21).
As UC regents debated the new policy on tobacco-funded research, UCLA has come under fire from tobacco critics for censoring major portions of its grant proposal to Philip Morris for research on adolescent smoking.
The grant, awarded in November 2006, provides $6 million over three years to the UCLA Adolescent Smoking Cessation Center for a study involving brain scans on smokers ages 14 to 21 and other research involving lab animals.
The grant is the largest from a tobacco company to UC researchers.
Stanton Glantz, a UC-San Francisco professor and critic of the tobacco industry, said the grant application is missing the researchers' names, the experiments being conducted and an explanation of the goal of the research.
Bill Phelps, spokesperson for Philip Morris, said the purpose of the grant was to "increase scientific understanding in the field of adolescent tobacco use, addiction and cessation." He added, "We have no right to direct or influence how that research is conducted" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21).
"The regents should just follow the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, give awardees a voice to defend themselves, consider carefully the faculty's opinion, determine fairly the presence of any public deception and act decisively, Thomas Jue, professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at UC-Davis School of Medicine, writes in a Bee opinion piece. "Let's not waste time searching for compromise when hard evidence does not support" a proposal to ban tobacco-funded research and "while the challenges of a UC renaissance await our full attention," Jue writes (Jue, Sacramento Bee, 9/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.