Philip Morris International (PMI), which makes Marlboro cigarettes, has submitted a freedom of Information (FoI) request to see data from University of Stirling’s research into young people’s smoking habits.
The research, which investigates why teenagers start smoking, looks at what they think of marketing by tobacco companies.
Professor Gerard Hastings, of the university's centre for tobacco control research, said: "It is deeply concerning they are even trying to get this data. We are talking about children and this is data the tobacco companies themselves would never be allowed to collect.
"Most fundamentally this information was given to us by young people in complete confidence. We assured them we would treat it with absolute confidence and that it would be restricted to the research.
"There is no way that Philip Morris qualifies in that definition.
"It has enormous implications for academic freedom."
The department is currently preparing a response to the FoI request which it will pass to the Information Commissioner.
A PMI spokeswoman said: "PMI made a Freedom of Information request to understand more about a research project conducted by the University of Stirling regarding plain packaging for cigarettes.
"Such government-funded research conducted by public institutions is covered by the Freedom of Information Act, in accordance with which members of the public can request information held by public authorities.
"We are not seeking any private or confidential information on any individuals involved with the research. As provided by the freedom of Information Act, confidential and private information concerning individuals should not be disclosed."