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How to identify science being bent: The tobacco industry's fight to deny second-hand smoking health hazards as an example

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  • Rochel de Camargo, Kenneth
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    Social studies of science have produced a critical description of science that challenges traditional ideas about “objectivity” and “neutrality”. Given evidence that scientific tools have been used to undermine solid science against the interests of the general public as opposed to protecting society from findings prematurely declared to be facts, this article asks: how can one differentiate between the usual proceedings of scientists and deliberate attempts to distort science? In order to respond to this question, the author presents systematic studies of the distortion (or “bending”) of science, with special attention to the role of public relation firms in the process. Drawing on examples from the tobacco industry, the article concludes that there are two key features of the tobacco industry case that indicate that distortions in science may have taken place: the fact that controversies surrounding tobacco has been centered in public forums, and legal or regulatory arenas more than scientific domains; and the presence of conflicts of interest in authorship and funding.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 7 ()
    Pages: 1230-1235

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:7:p:1230-1235
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.03.057
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    1. Bero, Lisa A. Ph.D. & Hong, Mi­-Kyung, 2002. "How the tobacco industry responded to an influential study of the health effects of secondhand smoke," University of California at San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education qt1p96m101, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, UC San Francisco.
    2. Landman, Anne & Cortese, Daniel K. & Glantz, Stanton, 2008. "Tobacco industry sociological programs to influence public beliefs about smoking," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(4), pages 970-981, February.
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