The Times says sorry for 'errors and omissions' and pulls story claiming scientists paid by tobacco giants

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The Times has apologised for and retracted an article which claimed leading scientists were paid by tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes.

Five scientists have said they plans to sue over the article from 12 October 2016 which was headlined: “Tobacco giants fund vaping studies”.

Professor Karl Fagerstrom said: “My life’s work has been built on helping reduce the death toll from tobacco smoking. Yet The Times has portrayed me and my colleagues as hirelings of big tobacco. The Times has chosen to traduce our reputations. Now it is time for the paper to profusely apologise or face a battle it will not win.”

Professor David Sweanor of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, said: “My reputation has been trashed by The Times. Despite ample evidence of my independence it claimed that I am beholden to big tobacco companies.  It is like saying that Robin Hood was in the pay of the Sheriff of Nottingham. I have to fight this.”

Lawyer Jonathan Coad of Lewis Silkin said: “The long record of irresponsible journalism about matters of grave public interest on the part of this discredited newspaper group continues, as does the failure of IPSO to properly regulate the British press.”

The Times published an apology on Friday which said: “We recently published articles and a leader about scientists and public health experts and their alleged financial links with the tobacco industry.

“The experts mentioned in our report, Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London, Professor David Sweanor of the Faculty of Law and Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics at the University of Ottawa, Professor Karl Fagerstrom who created the Fagerstrom Test for Cigarette Dependency, Professor Riccardo Polosa, Director of the Institute for Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology at the University of Catania, and Clive Bates, former executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, are internationally respected for their longstanding global work to reduce smoking, and their work on the issue of nicotine harm reduction.

“Our report and a panel headed “Academics making a packet” implied that these experts had received funding for research into e-cigarettes. We accept that this was wrong and that their work has not been tainted by the influence of tobacco industry funding. We apologise for our errors and omissions and for the embarrassment caused.”

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