Top Scientists Hire Libel Lawyers To Sue The Times - full press release issued by the claimants.
- The Times had accused scientists devoted to ending smoking of being in the pay of big tobacco companies
- The newspaper has already been forced to publish a detailed apology to one of the experts it named
- Cancer Research UK has refused to back The Times’ description of the charity’s viewpoint
A group of senior scientists and public health experts has hired libel specialists at Lewis Silkin to sue The Times for making highly defamatory allegations.
The experts who have devoted their careers to helping to reduce the death toll from smoking, were accused by the paper of being in the pay of tobacco companies. On Wednesday 12 October 2016 under the headline “Tobacco giants fund vaping studies”
The Times wrongly accused the experts of accepting money from the tobacco companies for their work and castigated them as being “Experts making a packet” The Times has already withdrawn that description and apologised to one of the experts it defamed - the former head of Action on Smoking and Health, Clive Bates.
Yet it has not apologised to any of the other experts whom it falsely accused of accepting “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”
The Times story led its coverage with the claim that Cancer Research UK had “condemned the scientists” for allegedly taking funding for vaping research. However Cancer Research UK’s Tobacco Control Manager George Butterworth has refused to support The Times report saying that “we don’t condemn any researchers.”
“This is personal,” said Professor Karl Fagerstrom who is world famous in addiction science, and created the Fagerstrom Test for Cigarette Dependence.
“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,” said Professor Fagerstrom. The Times claimed that he had been paid for research on e-cigarettes. However Professor Fagerstrom has never done any research on e-cigarettes.
"We are some of the world’s best known experts on tobaccco harm reduction. Between us we have published more than 1,000 academic papers. Yet The Times has grotesquely smeared us in a story informed by the ideologue Martin McKee who has never published a single research paper on e-cigarettes” said Professor Riccardo Polosa one of the other academics accused by The Times of publishing e-cigarette research funded by tobacco money.
“The Times should examine carefully its motives for this scurrilous attack. Reducing the uptake of safer tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes and snus will inevitably result in more deaths from real cigarettes, currently the biggest killer in the world today. Is this really what they want?” asked Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London who was the lead author of a seminal study that which endorsed e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco harm reduction. The Times suggested this report was tainted by tobacco money.
Yet the biggest mistake by The Times was not to research the background of the other expert it attacked - Professor David Sweanor of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa. As well as being a distinguished public health academic and longstanding anti-smoking activist, he is a philanthropist with a fortune made from lawsuits against tobacco companies.
“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,” added Professor Sweanor.
Jonathan Coad, the partner at Lewis Silkin who will be doing the work 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.”