Security alert at Bath University after threats to tobacco researchers
Security has been stepped up at the University of Bath after staff working in its tobacco control research group were subjected to threats and abuse.
Pro-smoking activists are intensifying the pressure on academics and health campaigners across the UK, as the Government looks into whether cigarettes should only be sold in plain packets.
The team at Bath has received threatening and abusive phone calls and emails after publishing an article in January about the illegal trade in a smokeless tobacco called snus.
Professor Anna Gilmore, from the university’s Tobacco Control Research Unit, said she received a message from one caller saying: “Tell her that I know people that would like to meet with her in a dark alley.”
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The group received about seven calls a day for two months and Professor Gilmore said it was clear that a certain sector of people had planned to undermine and disrupt their work.
She said: “The ones I answered were intimidatory; the tone was aggressive. Many of my team felt threatened and worried by this.
“We’ve had abuse before, over the debate about banning smoking in public places, and I get some of this every time I publish a paper, but it’s increasing.
“This is part of a deliberate attempt to misinform the public and politicians, denigrate our research and to harass, denigrate and undermine us as researchers.”
The university has now launched a new website, TobaccoTactics.org, to monitor and counter moves by the industry and its supporters.