Research conducted by a Brigham Young University professor on the chemical makeup of tobacco smoke is being funded indirectly by tobacco companies.
Chemistry professor Delbert J. Eatough received $150,008 in September from the Center for Indoor Air Research to study the chemical makeup of side-stream tobacco smoke using an analytical technique pioneered at BYU. The center is supported almost entirely by contributions from cigarette companies.
A BYU spokesman says the university has no problem with the source of Eatough's funding, given the purpose of his research and the autonomy allowed him by the center.
Eatough also received about About two years ago Eatough also received a grant of a "couple hundred thousand" dollars from R.J. Reynolds; Eatough received the money through Hart Scientific, a Pleasant Grove company, rather than through BYU.
"We like clean air and if the tobacco companies want to work toward clean air, we are happy to cooperate with them," said Brent Harker, a BYU spokesman. "The university would not support funding from tobacco companies if (the research) goes to create profits or promote the use of tobacco because we believe it is a harmful substance."
But BYU regards research into possible harmful effects of tobacco - which may be used to convince tobacco companies not to "put out harmful products" - differently, Harker said.
BYU is a private university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS doctrine instructs members to abstain from the use of tobacco. Eatough is the only principal researcher at the university receiving funding linked to tobacco companies.
While BYU is not bothered by the source of Eatough's funding, anti-smoking advocates apparently are. They are challenging Eatough's - and five other scientists' - participation on a 16-member Environmental Protection Agency panel on smoking.
The other five scientists, like Eatough, are in varying ways connected to the Center for Indoor Air Research. One scientist, Morton Lippmann of New York University, is on the center's science advisory board. Dr. Jonathan Samet, of the University of New Mexico, helped devise the center's research agenda. Three other panelists are peer reviewers for the center. Eatough is the only panelist funded by the center.
The panel, scheduled to convene in December, will review research in two areas: the incidence of lung cancer in non-smokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke throughout their lives; and lung development problems and disease incidence in children exposed to tobacco smoke.
"They've stacked the deck with people who have close ties to the tobacco industry," said Dr. Alan Blum, founder of the anti-smoking group Doctors Ought to Care.
EPA officials do not believe the panel's objectivity is clouded by the associations with Center for Indoor Air Research.
Neither does Eatough, who has conducted research on the chemical properties of tobacco smoke for the past four or five years. It is not uncommon for industries to funnel money to centers conducting research that may affect them, he said.
Eatough said the anti-smoking advocates apparently are on the offensive about the makeup of the EPA panel because the tobacco industry successfully lobbied to get Dr. David Burns, of the University of California, San Diego, dismissed from the panel. Burns is considered a leading authority on passive smoking.
Eatough has published about 20 papers in scientific journals and in meeting proceeding documents analyzing environmental tobacco smoke, which he said is the No. 1 indoor air pollutant.
At BYU, Eatough conducts his studies using a room-sized Teflon chamber in which tobacco is burned. He has also studied environmental tobacco smoke in enclosed areas such as airplanes.