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Tobacco industry-funded Foundation fits in a longestablished and sinister pattern of corporate chicanery

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Removal of tobacco industry from interagency committee gets support

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35 countries announced a new commitment in tobacco control measures

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letter sent by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World founder

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WHO Statement on Philip Morris funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

WHO statement http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2017/philip-morris-foundation/en/

28 September 2017

On 13 September 2017, tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) announced its support for the establishment of a new entity – the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. PMI indicated that it expects to support the Foundation by contributing approximately USD 80 million annually over the next 12 years.

The UN General Assembly has recognized a “fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.” (1) WHO Member States have stated that “WHO does not engage with the tobacco industry or non-State actors that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry”, (2) the Organization will therefore not engage with this new Foundation.

Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) obliges Parties to act to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law. Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 state clearly that governments should limit interactions with the tobacco industry and avoid partnership. These Guidelines are also explicit that Governments should not accept financial or other contributions from the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, such as this Foundation.

Strengthening implementation of the WHO FCTC for all tobacco products remains the most effective approach to tobacco control. Policies such as tobacco taxes, graphic warning labels, comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and offering help to quit tobacco use have been proven to reduce demand for tobacco products. These policies focus not just on helping existing users to quit, but on preventing initiation.

If PMI were truly committed to a smoke-free world, the company would support these policies. Instead, PMI opposes them. PMI engages in large scale lobbying and prolonged and expensive litigation against evidence-based tobacco control policies such as those found in the WHO FCTC and WHO’s MPOWER tobacco control, which assists in implementation of the WHO FCTC. For example, just last year PMI lost a six year investment treaty arbitration with Uruguay, in which the company spent approximately US$ 24 million to oppose large graphic health warnings and a ban on misleading packaging in a country with fewer than four million inhabitants.

There are many unanswered questions about tobacco harm reduction (3), but the research needed to answer these questions should not be funded by tobacco companies.

The tobacco industry and its front groups have misled the public about the risks associated with other tobacco products. This includes promoting so-called light and mild tobacco products as an alternative to quitting, while being fully aware that those products were not less harmful to health. Such misleading conduct continues today with companies, including PMI, marketing tobacco products in ways that misleadingly suggest that some tobacco products are less harmful than others.

This decades-long history means that research and advocacy funded by tobacco companies and their front groups cannot be accepted at face value. When it comes to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, there are a number of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation, particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company’s brand portfolio. WHO will not partner with the Foundation. Governments should not partner with the Foundation and the public health community should follow this lead.

WHO tells governments to reject Philip Morris-funded smoking foundation

The World Health Organization told governments on Thursday not to get involved in a foundation funded by tobacco firm Philip Morris International to look at ways of reducing the harm from smoking.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-tobacco/who-tells-governments-to-reject-philip-morris-funded-smoking-foundation-idUSKCN1C31X4

The U.N. health body said there was a conflict of interest in a tobacco firm funding such research – drawing a sharp rebuke from the Foundation’s head who said his work was independent.

Philip Morris International said this month it wanted to help set up a body called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and planned to give it about $80 million a year for 12 years to keep it running.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the WHO’s statement.

The U.N. body said on Thursday there were already proven techniques to tackle smoking – including tobacco taxes, graphic warning labels and advertising bans – which the tobacco industry had opposed in the past.

“WHO will not partner with the Foundation. Governments should not partner with the Foundation and the public health community should follow this lead,” it said.

The foundation’s founder and president-designate, Derek Yach, a former senior official at the WHO, said more collaboration, not less, was needed to win the war on smoking.

“I am deeply disappointed, therefore, by WHO’s complete mischaracterisation of the nature, structure and intent of the Foundation in its recent statements – and especially by its admonition to others not to work together.”

He said the foundation was a non-profit organization with strict rules to insulate it from the influence of the tobacco industry, and its research agenda would be subject to peer review.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Heavens

Hasten passing of tobacco laws tobacco control

MALAYSIA became party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003. FCTC Article 15 enumerates in detail measures to tackle illicit trade in tobacco products.

http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/09/25/hasten-passing-of-tobacco-laws-tobacco-control/

Although the relevant authorities have been discussing the illicit trade in tobacco products, including preparation for the ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (ITP) by Malaysia, there seems to be lack of or even absence of serious and effective measures to stop the reportedly growing illicit trade in tobacco products so far.

Article 15.7 of the FCTC calls for licensing to control or regulate the production and distribution of tobacco products in order to prevent illicit trade.

The National Kenaf and Tobacco Board Act 2009 amendment in 2010 stipulates licensing of tobacco and tobacco products.

Licensing of Tobacco and Tobacco Products Regulation 2011 has yet to be implemented amid continued opposition by the tobacco industry.

We must be reminded that the provision on the ban of kiddie packs under The Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 was also delayed for over six years due to interference by the tobacco industry.

Again, this is in contravention to Article 5 General obligations of the WHO FCTC, which states in 5.3: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

With such blatant disregard to legal provisions and international treaty obligations, the tobacco industry’s typical threats of loss of employment, loss to tobacco farmers, increasing illicit cigarettes and now the increased use of illicit cigarettes by young smokers become the emotive justification by the industry and the front groups in chorus to blind and blinker all the public healthcare professionals’ expert recommendations.

Cigarette retailers and the cigarette companies are not a stakeholder in deciding public health policies. They have vested interest in the sale and promotion of tobacco products.

WHO reports link direct and indirect involvement of the tobacco industry in the smuggling and illicit trade of tobacco products. As such, they have no credibility and their proposal aims only to guarantee benefits to them.

Instead of entertaining regressive ideas and proposals, all related parties should be tightening the tobacco products supply chain under the Blue Ocean Strategy.

For a start, immediately institute a ban on sale of tobacco products at places other than permanent premises.

This measure was successfully used to tackle pirated CD/DVD sale by local governments before.

Hasten the implementation of licensing of tobacco and tobacco products by National Kenaf and Tobacco Board.

MUHAMMAD SHA’ANI ABDULLAH

Co-ordinator,
Tobacco Control @ Smoke Free Malaysia Initiative
Federation of Malaysia Consumers Association

Tobacco control threatens to implode over new initiative

The tobacco control industry spectacularly turned on itself this week, with the launch of a new foundation dedicated to end tobacco smoking. Far from being welcomed across the industry, the move has led to open hostility between harm reduction advocates and prohibitionists.

https://www.vapingpost.com/2017/09/22/tobacco-control-threatens-to-implode-over-new-initiative/

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent non-profit organisation, is headed by former World Health Organisation tobacco control chief Derek Yach and supported by leading harm reduction advocates like Professor Marewa Glover. Initial funding totalling $80 million per year for the next twelve years has come from PMI, which seems to be what’s sent public health zealots into a flat spin. Although the foundation’s by-laws make clear that it’s free to spend the money without interference or oversight by donors, the idea of industry funding for a harm reduction organisation has triggered prohibitionists on a huge scale.

A hysterical outburst by UCSF’s Stanton Glantz, entitled Derek Yach’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete, accused the foundation of being a “PR effort” and “industry front group”. An equally over-excited blog post on the British Medical Journal’s website repeated the “front group” smear, and accused Yach of “dismissing 40 years of tobacco control activism”.

The BMJ post’s authors include Anna Gilmore (a British professor who has been implicated in using her seat on a funding committee to allocate taxpayer funds to herself), Ruth Malone from UCSF’s School of Nursing and Australian pensioner Simon Chapman. Among their many complaints is that the tobacco control industry is “already vibrant” and has “fresh ideas”. However the foundation’s launch video, produced by A Billion Lives director Aaron Biebert, points out that current strategies based on restrictions and punishing smokers have run out of steam – and the tobacco control establishment has run out of ideas.

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat’s statement on the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat (Convention Secretariat) notes the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, led by a former official of the World Health Organization.

http://www.who.int/fctc/mediacentre/statement/secretariat-statement-launch-foundation-for-a-smoke-free-world/en/

The Convention Secretariat regards this tobacco industry-funded initiative as a clear attempt to breach the WHO FCTC by interfering in public policy. It is a deeply alarming development aimed at damaging the treaty’s implementation, particularly through the Foundation’s contentious research programmes.

The WHO FCTC is the world’s only tobacco control evidence based treaty and has been commended by global leaders as providing the primary roadmap to a tobacco-free world. It has 181 Parties, representing 180 States and the European Union, and is supported by numerous nongovernmental organizations.

The Convention Secretariat wishes to make the following points and clarifications:

1. With regard to the president of this Foundation

Although the president of the Foundation was part of the WHO Secretariat during the negotiation of the WHO FCTC, the treaty had no single architect. It resulted from the work of hundreds of committed government representatives, individuals and organizations, and that is its greatest strength – teamwork.

The Foundation’s president is in no way linked to the Convention Secretariat, nor does he represent the Convention Secretariat’s views.

2. With regard to the Foundation’s funding

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World describes itself as an independent organization. It reportedly will be funded solely with almost US$ 1 billion from Philip Morris International, the tobacco conglomerate.

There is extensive experience of tobacco-industry funded research that was later used to prevent effective tobacco control policies. It is clear that the industry aims to follow the same path in the area of non-traditional tobacco products, which are unregulated in many countries.

3. With regard to interactions with the tobacco industry

Parties to the WHO FCTC should note that any collaboration with this Foundation, due to its current funding arrangement that comes from a tobacco multinational, would constitute a clear breach of Article 5.3 of the Convention concerning tobacco industry interference.

Parties to the Convention have agreed, through the Guidelines to Article 5.3, that activities described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry, constitute a marketing and public-relations strategy that falls within the Convention’s definition of advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Parties should not endorse, support, form partnerships with or participate in tobacco industry activities described as socially responsible. Tobacco industry is clearly looking for a seat at the table.

4. With regard to new products

The tobacco industry is introducing new products in pursuit of profit rather than public health. For example, new “heat-no-burn” products contain tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) contain nicotine, an addictive substance regulated through appropriate policies under Article 5.2(b) of the Convention related to legislative and administrative measures.

Parties to the Convention have agreed to consider applying regulatory measures to prohibit or restrict the manufacture, importation, distribution, presentation, sale and use of ENDS, as appropriate to their national laws and public health objectives. If other novel tobacco or nicotine products emerge, the way that they are treated needs to be considered in the same way.

5. With regard to possible effects on tobacco growers

Article 17 of the WHO FCTC requires Parties to promote, as appropriate, economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers and growers. The tobacco industry knows that it creates social problems, including the use of child labour. Initiatives endorsed by the industry and those it funds are not designed to solve the problems it creates, but to give a false impression of sympathy for its victims.

6. With regard to the impact of the WHO FCTC on public health

The WHO FCTC, despite the efforts of the tobacco industry to prevent progress, has substantially improved global public health through the evidence-based measures it endorses.

The WHO FCTC has been recognized as playing “a critical role as an authoritative and agreed catalyst and framework for action.” The use by the tobacco industry of research to prevent effective tobacco control policies, now in relation to non-traditional tobacco products, is proof that the policies originating from Parties’ implementation of the WHO FCTC provisions are having an important and lasting effect on tobacco control.

Wait, What? Tobacco Giant Backs Foundation to End Smoking

An old adage in journalism states that when a dog bites a man, it’s not news. But when a man bites a dog, now, that’s news. Well, the proverbial man just bit the dog in the form of a nearly $1 billion pledge to reduce smoking from the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.

https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2017/9/18/turning-over-a-new-leaf-tobacco-giant-backs-foundation-to-end-smoking-1

Philip Morris International will donate $80 million a year for the next 12 years to the recently launched Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. The new foundation stresses independence from its donors and their agendas, but so far, the company behind Marlboro is its only backer.

The donation comes as Philip Morris is said to be preparing for a smoke-free future. More than 3 million smokers have switched to the company’s e-cigarette IQOS, according to Bloomberg. IQOS heats tobacco to produce a vapor instead of burning it, which the company believes makes it less harmful than conventional cigarettes. The company asked the FDA to approve marketing that sells the product as a device that may reduce the chance of smoking-related diseases.

Derek Yach, the man heading the new foundation, is a vocal supporter of e-cigarettes. The devices, which don’t contain tar, provide a safer alternative for smokers to use while weaning themselves off traditional cigarettes, Yach wrote in a 2015 editorial. Opponents argue that “safer” is not the same as “safe,” and claim that e-cigarettes act as a gateway drug for conventional cigarettes.

Yach is a former World Health Organization official who led the organization’s campaigns against health issues arising from unhealthy diets and smoking. He worked on a global tobacco treaty while at the organization, but has a history of making deals with the devil in the name of progress. Yach worked for PepsiCo for six years after leaving WHO, where he says he pushed the company to make products healthier, including chips with less salt and fat and drinks with less sugar. It’s hard to miss the parallels to Yach’s latest endeavor and its backer.

The Philip Morris donation to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was met with skepticism from some.

Deborah Arnott, the CEO of Action on Smoking and Health, a public health charity based in the U.K., criticized the announcement. “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value,” she said. “The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking.”

Arnott has a point. The tobacco industry has a long and checkered past in meddling in medical and research fields to benefit its bottom line. From the 1920s through the 1940s, the industry leaned heavily on advertising that claimed cigarettes were “physician approved.”

More recently, the industry funded research designed to support the claim that secondhand smoke posed no danger to non-smokers, a review of millions of pages of industry documents revealed. Research proving the opposite was used to support smoking bans in public and private places.

Some worry that the new foundation bankrolled by Philip Morris will also produce research and disseminate information that misleads the public. The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease denounced the gift as “a billion-dollar bribe the tobacco company hopes will secure it a seat at the table with public health policymakers around the world… Through propaganda, it only has the potential to undermine, delay and obfuscate the work of public health policymakers and advocates who champion evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use.” The Union said that the company will continue to spend exponentially more money to hook people in poor countries on smoking than on preventive efforts through the foundation.

Although smoking is on the decline in the U.S., tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death in the country, according the Center for Disease Control.

Worldwide, tobacco kills about 6 million people a year, which is more than AIDS and malaria combined. The number is projected to rise to 8 million by 2030.

Despite that, there’s not a widespread effort among funders to curb smoking, which is another reason the Philip Morris gift is notable. The two biggest names in the space right now are Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Gates Foundation. Back in 2015, the two teamed up to take on companies like Philip Morris that sue low- and middle-income countries to prevent their governments from enforcing strong tobacco control laws.

The tobacco giant’s intentions and the young foundation’s integrity remain to be seen.