The need to unbias the application of competing interest principles in e-cigarette research

Time: 10:55 - 11:10

Date: Tuesday 7th December 2021

Every researcher can be potentially motivated by factors other than an objective search for truth. The clinical research community has addressed some of these factors by requiring declarations of competing interests. These mostly focus on financial links with companies that may stand to gain or lose from findings or views being presented. The rules are important but, like most rules, they need to be applied diligently and fairly if they are not to do more harm than good. In the field of e-cigarette research, this presentation will argue that unfair application of the rules is leading to significant bias. On the one hand, acceptance by researchers of research products from e-cigarette companies with no financial gain to researchers is judged by opponents of e-cigarettes as grounds for disregarding findings and heaping opprobrium on the researchers concerned. On the other hand acceptance of career-enhancing grants from organisations that are strongly opposed to e-cigarettes does not appear to be regarded as an issue. In this way, competing interest principles are arguably being weaponised in what some regard as a war on tobacco users rather than a war on tobacco. The application of competing interest principles needs to be scrutinised by the scientific and public health community to achieve balance

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