In fact, it comes from a single meeting of 12 people convened to develop a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) model to synthesise their opinions on the harms associated with different nicotine containing products; the results of the meeting were summarised in a research paper.To make things even worse, they've managed to link one of the sponsors of this research paper to British American Tobacco. Conflict of interest they scream. Well, their argumentation is pretty much ripped apart in the "rapid responses" to the BMJ article, so I'm not going to do what others have done so well already. I also recommend reading the Joint statement on e-cigarettes by Public Health England and other UK public health organisations.
What baffles me is that the "other side", the anti-ecig side, are the ones making these claims... that research shining a positive light on vaping is probably paid for by Big Tobacco or Big Pharma. I was recently accused of this myself in a debate (in Norwegian, sorry) taking place in the comments field in a medical journal here in Norway. After some back and forth where I looked into their sources and explained why I don't think these sources support their own conclusions, my good friends Sanner and Grimsrud started making claims that I was only reading research written by people sponsored by big tobacco or big pharma. Therefore they also wanted to end the discussion. I couldn't resist going through their sources pointing out the Pfizer and GSK logos I found, and I told them that I agreed the discussion should be ended. The point is... why the hell would Big Tobacco and Big Pharma pay for research that would support products that are competing with their own products? It makes no sense. Big Pharmas NRTs are competing directly with e-cigarettes, and Big Tobaccos own e-cigarettes are already customized to fit into a strict regulation scheme that would wipe out their competition. If big tobacco and big pharma are paying for research, they are certainly not paying for anything that would slightly suggest vaping is great... unless they've realized that their markets are lost anyway and they just want to speed up the process. Do you think this is the case? I don't for sure. If Big Tobacco and Big Pharma were really trying to influence this research, like McKee and Capewell are claiming, they should be the ones complaining: Eyh... Objection! We can prove that these guys are paid by organizations more interested in improving public health than making us more money!