Publication of research is fundamental to the process of tobacco regulation, and peer review is likewise fundamental to the process of publishing research that is most likely to be relevant to the regulatory process. However, serious concerns have been raised about the publication of research funded by tobacco companies, particularly because of past and current ethical concerns about the ‘behavior’ of those companies.1,2 Tobacco Regulatory Science initially established a policy of not considering tobacco industry research for publication, however, also established a process of annually evaluating that decision. In 2019-2020, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) conducted an extensive process that included determining whether their journal would allow publications by industry, including tobacco companies, and decided to continue to allow such papers to be considered for publication based on the premise that fair review could be accomplished and a recognition that quality research should be disseminated.
Based on SRNT’s extensive review process and because peer-reviewed science – which is the core mission of this journal – is directly relevant to government regulatory review of all nicotine and tobacco products, the policy regarding publication of tobacco industry research in Tobacco Regulatory Science has been changed to allow consideration of publications that are funded by the tobacco industry (ie, those that produce and/or market combustible or smokeless tobacco). Effective immediately, articles that have received funding from a tobacco company can be submitted for review and consideration for publication in Tobacco Regulatory Science.
When submitting an article for review, authors will be required to indicate on the submission website whether they received any direct or indirect support (eg, funding, products, etc) by tobacco companies (eg, including tobacco company co-ownership of or investment in a company that sells electronic nicotine delivery systems). This information will be available only to editorial staff. Because Tobacco Regulatory Science has always implemented a double-blind peer review process for all papers submitted to the journal, the funding source(s) will not be included in the article under review, though that information will be indicated in any articles that are accepted for publication. With this blinded review process, we expect that all submitted articles will be reviewed in a fair and unbiased fashion. Publication of research indicates only that the article has passed the peer review and does not constitute an endorsement of a company or its products.
In all cases, no person(s) who receives funding directly or indirectly by a tobacco company will serve as reviewers or editors for Tobacco Regulatory Science out of recognition that they represent the industry being regulated. We recognize that other potential sources of bias might exist, eg, from those who consult for pharmaceutical companies, nicotine delivery companies that do not receive tobacco industry support and those who have publicly stated positions that reflect bias, so the Editor-in-Chief will take that into consideration when considering article reviews. In addition to this new policy regarding tobacco industry articles, new policies are being implemented immediately by Tobacco Regulatory Science to increase transparency, accountability and data access (transparency policy statement).
Tobacco industry-funded research is a unique challenge as there are strong and relevant arguments that can be made in support of denying or allowing publication of scientifically sound research. In light of continued concerns about tobacco industry behavior, and to assure that the decision to publish research funded by tobacco companies is not being influenced by economic considerations, the Editor-in-Chief will forego revenue derived from any accepted manuscripts for publication that have been funded directly or indirectly by tobacco companies (eg, tobacco company co-ownership of a company that sells electronic nicotine delivery systems). Those funds will be donated to a non-profit organization (to be determined).
Tobacco Regulatory Science is dedicated to investigating tobacco products and their effects, and most importantly the dissemination of unbiased and high-quality research that has the potential to impact the regulation of tobacco. Given the rapidly changing environment regarding tobacco regulation, the publication policy described above will continue to be actively reviewed to best assure that the science published in Tobacco Regulatory Science is of the highest quality.
If you have any questions about this policy or its implementation, please contact the Editor (Dr Leischow) for clarification.
- The PLoS Medicine Editors. A new policy on tobacco papers. PLoS Med. 2010;7(2):e1000237. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000237
- Malone RE. Changing tobacco control’s policy on tobacco industry- funded research. Tob Control. 2013;22:1-2. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050874