Some US museums continue taking tobacco donations even as others are rejecting funds from big pharma amid the opioid crisis
Researchers are questioning why some American museums accept tobacco donations, even as some review donation policies in light of the UK National Portrait Gallery recently rejecting a gift from the Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharma who are at the center of Americas devastating opioid crisis.
One of Americas most venerated institutions, the Smithsonian museum, which oversees the US National Portrait Gallery, has accepted donations from the US maker of Marlboro cigarettes as recently as 2017.
The Smithsonian is not alone. In 2018, Altria donated $3.6m to arts and culture institutions, a spokesman told the Guardian. The Newseum and the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and New YorksAlvin Ailey American Dance Theater all accepted Altria funding that year, according to the latest available company documents.
In 2014, the Landmark Theater in Richmond, Virginia, also struck a sponsorship deal with Altria, and was renamed the Altria Theater in exchange for $10m from the tobacco company.
Dr Michael Siegel, a professor of health sciences at Boston University and an expert in tobacco marketing, said he was shocked to even hear the Smithsonian, among others, continued to accept donations from tobacco companies.
Im surprised to hear in 2017, or possibly now, that there are major institutions that are taking tobacco money. Its a surprise to me, said Siegel. If that was more widely known, there would be quite an outcry from people in the anti-tobacco movement.
When organizations accept money from big tobacco, theyre essentially allowing themselves to be used by pawns in the marketing strategy of big tobacco companies, said Siegel. He continued that accepting donations from tobacco companies was extremely egregious at this point in that game.
Last week, the UKs National Portrait Gallery refused a donation of more than 1m from a Sackler family foundation, citing concerns about Americas opioid crisis. The Tate gallery group followed, and within days the Sackler Trust announced it would suspend giving in while roughly 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits move through courts.
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