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Decline in Tobacco Industry Means Fewer Dollars for University Research

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RALEIGH — The decline of big tobacco in North Carolina has meant lots of changes to the economy such as fewer jobs and lower tax revenues.

But the decline of one of the state's largest industries also means fewer dollars given for university research.

Across the campus atNorth Carolina State University, you can see signs of past gifts from one of the school's biggest donors,R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

There is the Reynolds Coliseum where N.C. State held its fall graduation. There are 15 professors at the university on Reynolds scholarships. And there is also the multi-million dollar phytotron on the campus where all kinds of plant research takes place.

The facility was funded in part by R.J. Reynolds and the other tobacco companies.

But when it comes to future funding for research projects, how generous has R.J. Reynolds been lately?

N.C. State says donations by R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies have been on the decline.

"As we look back over 10 years, they're less than half what they were 10 years ago," said Dr. Bill Collins, coordinator of tobacco programs.

Collins says tobacco companies now give about three quarters of a million dollars annually in research grants.

R.J. Reynolds says it is still committed to supporting research.

"The commitment is not going to evaporate by no means. It would be folly to evaporate. We have a partnership. We have a relationship. We have a marriage," said Benjamin Ruffin, R.J. Reynolds Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

The company says it wants to help students make the grade for years to come.