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Academician under fire for tobacco research

(Xinhua)

18:52, December 14, 2011

BEIJING, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- A researcher who specializes in low-tar cigarette studies is facing growing criticism after being honored with a seat in the elite Chinese Academy of Engineering, which health experts say only serves to discredit the country's tobacco-control efforts.

Xie Jianping, 52, is known for his research on low-tar cigarettes and serves as the deputy head of a tobacco research institute under China National Tobacco Corporation (China Tobacco) -- China's tobacco monopoly and the world's largest cigarette company.

Gan Quan, a senior project officer with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said it is an international common practice that science and research institutes should distance themselves from tobacco interests.

"As a subsidiary of China Tobacco, Xie's institute has not yet defended the credibility of its research results in the public health sphere," Gan said. "And in fact, the FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) requires nations to ban deceptive and misleading descriptions such as 'low tar.'"

Xie's appointment has stirred controversy on the Internet with users decrying him as the "Killer Academic" or "Tobacco Academic," who has "brought shame" to China's scientific community.

"There is no safe level of tobacco consumption. Smokers are more likely to inhale deeper when they consume low-tar cigarettes, and that actually increases the health risks," said Yang Gonghuan, head of the China Tobacco Control Office under Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (China CDC),

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