Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR)

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In the late 1980s, the tobacco industry was under pressure to respond to growing concerns about second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Using a classic PR diversionary tactic, it decided to set up an organisation that would instead look at “indoor air quality” rather than ETS. The Center for Indoor Air Research was initially formed and funded by Lorillard, Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds to “broaden research into the field of indoor air quality generally and to expand interest beyond the misplaced emphasis solely on environmental tobacco smoke”.1

CIAR disbanded in 1998, though in 2000 Philip Morris re-initiated an external research grants programme called the “Philip Morris External Research Programme” (PMERP), ostensibly to develop cigarette designs “that might reduce the health risk of smoking”. The structure of the review panel was almost identical to CIAR; indeed, the tobacco control advocates Elisa Tong and Stanton Glantz argue that the CIAR was “essentially reconstituted as the Philip Morris External Research Program”.23 Philip Morris eventually disbanded PMERP in 2008, though PMI and other tobacco companies continue to fund academic and scientific research via other channels.4

Set up to “Fraudulently Mislead”

On 29 January 2003, the US Department of Justice outlined in court documents that the “CIAR was officially created … to act as a coordinating organization for Defendants’ efforts to fraudulently mislead the American public about the health effects of ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) exposure”.5

Moreover, CIAR “funded research designed not to find answers to health questions, but solely to attack legislative initiatives related to ETS exposure. Lawyers specifically engineered and constructed scientific studies to get results that would be useful for public relations, litigation, and legislative battles, as opposed to results that would assist the scientific community in further understanding the health effects of ETS exposure.56

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  1. Tobacco Freedom Website, CIAR, undated, accessed February 2021
  2. N. Hirschhorn, S.A. Bialous, S. Shatenstein, Philip Morris’ new scientific initiative: an analysis, Tobacco Control, 2001, 10:247-252, doi:10.1136/tc.10.3.247
  3. E.K. Tong, S.A. Glantz, Tobacco Industry Efforts Undermining Evidence Linking Secondhand Smoke With Cardiovascular Disease, Circulation, 2007, 116:1845–1854, doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.715888
  4. A. Landman, Philip Morris Snuffs Out Controversial Research Program, PRWatch, 4 March 2008, accessed July 2022
  5. abCenter for Science in the Public Interest, Professional Associations, Charities, and Industry Front Groups, Undated, pp. 22-23
  6. M. Muggli E, J. Forster L, R. Hurt D, J. Repace L, The Smoke You Don’t See: Uncovering Tobacco Industry Scientific Strategies Aimed Against Environmental Tobacco Smoke Policies, American Journal of Public Health, 2001, 91(9):1419-1423, doi:10.2105/ajph.91.9.1419
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