Scientific Research and Corporate Influence: Smoking, Mental Illness, and the Tobacco Industry
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 67, Number 3, July 2012
- pp. 374-397
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Mentally ill individuals have always smoked at high rates and continue to do so, despite public health efforts to encourage smoking cessation. In the last half century, the tobacco industry became interested in this connection, and conducted and supported psychiatric and basic science research on the mental health implications of smoking, long before most mental health professionals outside the industry investigated this issue. Initially, representatives of tobacco industry research organizations supported genetics and psychosomatic research to try to disprove findings that smoking causes lung cancer. Tobacco industry research leaders engaged with investigators because of shared priorities and interests in the brain effects of nicotine. By the 1980s, collaborative funding programs and individual company research and development teams engaged in intramural and extramural basic science studies on the neuropharmacology of nicotine. When mental health researchers outside the industry became interested in the issue of the mentally ill and smoking in the mid-1990s, they increasingly explained it in terms of a disease of nicotine addiction. Both the idea that smoking/nicotine does something positive for the mentally ill and the conclusion that it is the result of nicotine dependence have the potential to support corporate agendas (tobacco or pharmaceutical).