Number: 2144  Status: Submitted
Category :
Health Promotion/Public Health
Track : Ethics
Keywords : - Environmental tobacco smoke - Ethics - Litigation
Abstract Form:
Type of abstract : Policy Preferred presentation : Oral


Diethelm P. A. 1, Rielle J.-C. 2
1. OxyGenève, Geneva, Switzerland - 2. CIPRET-Genève, Geneva, Switzerland

In March 2001, two smoking-prevention associations of Geneva (Switzerland), CIPRET-Genève and OxyGenève, denounced in a press conference an infiltration of the University of Geneva by the tobacco industry. The agent of the infiltration was a reputed Swedish professor, whose main affiliation was with the University of Gothenburg. His name: Ragnar Rylander. He had been secretly employed by Philip Morris for 30 years. He was one of their most highly paid consultants. He supervised the operations of INBIFO, the ultra-secret biological laboratory of Philip Morris in Germany. For years, he received research reports on the studies conducted at INBIFO, which demonstrated in particular the high toxicity of side-stream smoke. He channeled the reports to Philip Morris, at the private house of one of their executives, where they would be read, acted upon and then destroyed. In spite of his firsthand and exclusive knowledge about the acute toxicity of side-stream smoke, not only Rylander has concealed it, but he has dedicated an important part of his career denying that ETS is harmful. To that end, he organized symposia on behalf of the tobacco industry and published studies paid by Philip Morris without disclosing his source of funding and concealing his conflict of interest. Following the revelations by CIPRET-Genève and OxyGenève, Rylander has sued Jean-Charles Rielle, the physician-in-charge of CIPRET and Pascal Diethelm, the president of OxyGenève, accusing them of defamation. The trial that ensued has exposed the affair to the public in its full dimension. It has unearthed more evidence, all highly damaging for the tobacco industry. The trial has had an extraordinary eye-opening effect in Switzerland on the practices of the tobacco industry, among public health authorities, in the media and the public at large. It has also offered academic research circles an example of the need to introduce more rigorous ethical rules and be wary about potential conflicts of interest.