Monday, February 27, 2006

University of Wyoming Decides to Reject UST Funding for Planned "Living in Smoke-Free Laramie" Seminar

The University of Wyoming Center for Rural Health Research and Education has decided to reject UST sponsorship of a planned seminar entitled "Living in Smoke-Free Laramie" and to cancel the seminar.

I earlier reported that the University was planning this seminar, sponsored by UST (which owns the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, maker of Copenhagen and Skoal), which was intended to "discuss tobacco and the various health related issues of both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products." In my view, this was really a sham seminar whose purpose was ostensibly to help UST market smokeless tobacco products by taking advantage of an opportunity to market its products in the face of a smoking ban, where smokers might be encouraged to switch to smokeless products as a way to avoid the inconvenience of the Laramie smoking ban (or to avoid having to quit smoking entirely).

The University of Wyoming has decided to cancel the event and to reject the funds offered by UST.

The Rest of the Story

I have nothing but praise for the University of Wyoming, including the Center for Rural Health Research and Education, and their decision to reject the UST funding and cancel the seminar. It is quite clear that they have nothing but the highest and most sincere and noblest intentions, and that they quickly realized that this was a mistake.

No damage was done, and in fact, the University of Wyoming has now helped set a standard and an outstanding example for all academic institutions in the country by making it clear that academic institutions are not appropriate venues to collaborate in the marketing of tobacco products.

In the end, the University of Wyoming has not only avoided a potentially inappropriate collaboration with a tobacco company, but has set itself apart as having the highest standards for academic and scientific integrity.

I hope that this story will help educate people throughout the country about one tactic that tobacco companies are using in their marketing efforts - collaborations with academic institutions to market their products in a way that gives respectability and credibility to these efforts. Universities should not let themselves be used as pawns in the marketing efforts of a deadly product.

Congratulations to the University of Wyoming and to the University's Center for Rural Health Research and Education for distinguishing themselves by setting the highest standards for academic integrity!

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