The world’s largest tobacco company is trying to force academics at the University of Stirling, UK, to hand over confidential research data about British teenagers’ smoking habits (Independent, Telegraph, BBC).
Philip Morris International is using Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to try to gain access to about 6,000 confidential interviews with teenagers as young as 13 discussing their views on smoking and tobacco.
The research formed the basis for two studies published in the Journal of Adolescents, the European Journal of Public Health and the Tobacco Control journal, and examined why teenagers started smoking and what they thought of marketing by tobacco companies.
The information is anonymized and cannot be traced back to the interviewees.
Gerard Hastings, director of the university’s Institute for Social Marketing, which conducted the studies, told The Independent, “These are confidential comments about how youngsters feel about tobacco marketing. This is the sort of research that would get a tobacco company into trouble if it did it itself."
Philip Morris says it has a “legitimate interest” in the information.
“As provided by the FOI Act, confidential and private information concerning individuals should not be disclosed,” said Anne Edwards, director of external communications at Philip Morris. “We made the request in order to understand more about a research project conducted by the University of Stirling on plain packaging for cigarettes.”
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