Published on February 19, 2014 | by Katherine Jackson


Imperial College under fire for tobacco investments

A woman student smoking outside LCC

According to Cancer Research, nine out of ten lung cancers are caused by smoking. [Bethe Dabbs]

Imperial College London has invested £785,000 into the tobacco industry, despite the mainly science-based university teaching medicine and working directly to discourage smoking.

The university put money into three British and American tobacco companies through investment funds, according to the London Student.

Imperial, known for its world class research into science, technology and medicine, operates a strict no-smoking policy around campus and has conducted many studies into the links between lung cancer and smoking.

Douglas Gray, a post-graduate student in medicine, told Arts London News that he found it “bizarre” that they would invest money into an industry that “is so clearly responsible for millions of deaths”.

“It’s a university that specialises in researching into the causes behind diseases such a lung cancer, which is now widely recognised as being directly linked to smoking, it therefore seems totally contradictory that they would invest in these companies.”

Twitter users reacted to the revelation; one, @victoria2dc, wrote: “Right…educate them and kill their future with tobacco. What a plan to depopulate the world. Students should boycott them.”


According to Cancer Research, tobacco causes a quarter of the deaths in the UK, with nine in ten lung cancers being attributed to smoking; the charity say they actively oppose universities being affiliated with the industry,

Cancer Research’s Code of Practise on Tobacco Industry Funding to Universities states: “Research UK wishes to do everything it can to avoid links, whether direct or indirect with the tobacco industry.

“In respect of its relationship with universities, Cancer Research UK believes there are two main areas where a university’s links with the tobacco industry may impact on its relationship with the charity. No form of association with the tobacco industry is acceptable.”

Imperial has promoted a number of anti-smoking campaigns, many of which have been supported by Cancer Research UK.

A study conducted by the university last year found that the number of children smoking strengthened the case for cigarettes being sold in plain packaging.

Imperial College told Arts London News: “It is Imperial College policy to neither undertake research to develop or promote tobacco products nor to directly invest in tobacco companies. The College Endowment has a responsibility to optimise investment return to support the College’s academic mission, and it therefore holds some investments in managed funds. The College has no control over the composition of those funds, which change on a continual basis.”

This story was updated on February 24 to include the statement from Imperial College.



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