Tobacco giant Philip Morris infiltrated Thai research: Report

December 24th, 2008 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Dec 24 (DPA) A scientist working for the American cigarette-maker Philip Morris infiltrated a Thai research institute, a study alleged.The scientist, Roger Walk, gained access to the Thai scientific community and was able to “influence” teaching and studies on environmental poisons, a University of Sydney study lead by Ross MacKenzie claims.

The Bangkok Post newspaper, citing the study Wednesday, said the scientist used his contacts within Thailand to “advance the interests of Philip Morris in the country and throughout Asia”.

The Australian researchers said such links were “of great concern to the public health community”. The paper alleges that Walk “infiltrated” the Chulabhorn Research Institute, an independent biomedical agency funded by the Thai government, at around the time the agency was cementing links with the UN’ World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The WHO has stated that a firewall is in place between itself and the tobacco industry” but in fact “this firewall is not impenetrable”, said the report.

The study says better safeguards are needed to prevent tobacco companies from “thwarting public health goals”.

A British research team recently alleged that British American Tobacco had helped to form the Beijing Liver Foundation in China in order “to reprioritise the agenda of the Ministry of Public Health” on smoking.

Thailand moved to the forefront of the global campaign against smoking in May 2005 by insisting that cigarette packets needed to be half-wrapped in graphic health warnings and that all tobacco advertising in retail stores be taken down. Smoking bans were extended to all bars and other entertainment places in February last year.

There are an estimated 12 million smokers out of a population of 64 million Thais. Nearly 1.2 million smokers are teenagers.

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