17 January 2018

Utrecht University severs financial ties with PMI Impact

Utrecht University has informed PMI Impact that it will not accept funding for a study into tobacco smuggling. The study by professor Vervaele will continue but will be funded by the University itself.

'The fight against tobacco smuggling is important', says Executive Board President Anton Pijpers. 'Indeed, that was the reason for submitting the study proposal to PMI Impact, after lengthy deliberations. Academic independence was guaranteed.' However, the University has recently been criticised for accepting the amount of 360,000 euros, to be made available over a two-year period, from a fund financed by the tobacco industry. The critics included Dutch Cancer Society KWF and other healthcare organisations. Pijpers: 'In view of the social debate and at the express request of partners who are extremely important to us, we have decided to end this funding arrangement.'

KWF is pleased with this step. Acting KWF director Sigrid Attema: 'We believe this is a wise decision. The tobacco industry is not a normal industry, and that's why they should not be funding scientific research.'

Research illegal tobacco trade

Starting next month, professor John Vervaele and an international interdisciplinary team of legal experts and criminologists will study ways to strengthen the fight against the illegal tobacco trade within the EU. Their research will revolve around questions such as: What do national authorities do to combat the illegal trade in tobacco? What new policies could the EU issue to strengthen enforcement? And what are the options for the EU to influence the behaviour of countries and private parties outside the EU? To answer these questions, the researchers will compare the policies of several EU Member States, balance the differences between the EU's approach versus that of the United States, and study measures and effects in several policy areas. The study results will be disseminated among a broad range of parties.

Vervaele: 'We're doing this research because of the societal interests that it serves in terms of public health and benefits for governments. It was and remains crucial that the study is completely independent and that everyone will be able to view the results, that's definitely true. Important users of the results include European and national policymakers, customs authorities, the police, public prosecutor's offices an the judiciary.'