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Conflicts of Interest

Tobacco giant wants to eliminate smoking . . .

. . . and pigs might fly

http://www.bmj.com/content/358/bmj.j4443

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an “independent” research funding body fully funded by Philip Morris, launched on 13 September.1 It will provide $960m (£711m; €808m) over 12 years to help “eliminate smoking worldwide.” No benchmarks for this modest task have apparently yet been announced. This largesse is a mere $80m a year from a company with global revenue in 2016 of $26.7bn2 and a marketing budget (in 2012) of $7bn intended overwhelmingly to promote smoking.3

Harm reduction

The long, deceptive, and failed history of tobacco harm reduction has seen filters (including crocidolite asbestos); misleading “reduced carcinogen” brands; and a wide range of breathlessly announced innovations.4 Each of these had their academic touts. None reduced harms from smoking, and the “lights” and “milds” reduced risk fiasco5 arguably kept many smoking who may have otherwise quit. Electronic vaporisers, with their growing consumer acceptability, may turn out to be the real deal. But with less than a decade of widespread use, any verdict on their status as much less dangerous may be decades premature.

The vaporised nicotine industry, including Big Tobacco, is now focused on how it can break down potent regulatory controls on vaporised products and assure consumers about safety.

“Buying scientists”

In the past, Philip Morris has publicised seductive research funding and courted prominent scientists, including US epidemiologist Ernst Wynder, the first proponent of tobacco harm reduction.6 The new foundation’s director, Derek Yach, former leader of the World Health Organization’s tobacco control programme, is acutely aware of why it does this, having written powerfully in 2001 about the industry “buying scientists” to serve commercial objectives and help thwart effective tobacco control.7

Will this be a modern Faustian tale, as many expect, or will Yach have the success with Philip Morris that he heroically failed to experience in trying to turn Pepsi into a health oriented company for six of his post-WHO years?8 Doubtless he will have a predictable coterie of supplicants for the foundation’s money. But the breathtaking arrogance of Philip Morris and Yach shunning WHO’s article 5.3 on industry interference in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control9 supported by 180 nations will surely steel the resolve of thousands of researchers to continue to shun money obtained from tobacco sales with its unavoidable ethical problems. Nearly 120 health organisations have now called on the company instead to simply stop selling cigarettes,10 what Philip Morris (USA)’s website describes as its “core product.” This is, of course, thoroughly naive, because shareholders would prevent any serious attack on the company’s profitability to which cigarettes are central. Euromonitor estimates that the 2016 global market for combustible tobacco was $736bn while that for e-cigarettes was $12bn.11

If Philip Morris really wanted smoking rates to decline it could announce tomorrow that it will voluntarily introduce large graphic health warnings and plain packaging on all its tobacco products. We know, from countries where it has been forced to do this, that this could happen within 12 months.12 Knowing the impact of price on sales, it could massively increase its wholesale prices to retailers. It could stop all its tobacco advertising and sales promotions.

But Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have done nothing voluntary to embrace any policy that would accelerate the decline in smoking in populations. So they will do none of this and instead continue to reward staff who increase tobacco sales.

Importantly, Philip Morris has legally attacked potent tobacco control policies like graphic health warnings and plain packaging.13 The tobacco industry has armies of lobbyists whose goals are to defeat, dilute, and delay any policy or initiative that threatens its cash cow.

“Useful idiots”?

So will Yach actively join the world tobacco control community in attacking such activities or will he be historically numbered among prominent “useful idiots,” as Lenin might have called them,14 formerly working in tobacco control, who now attend global tobacco industry meetings to cheer on their tobacco host’s “game changing” while doing nothing about this industrial vector’s daily efforts to promote smoking?

Disturbingly, the main task for tobacco control is now increasingly framed by such quislings as convincing smokers to switch to vaporised products, not preventing and quitting smoking. Some even talk of vaping by children as being “protective” against future smoking.15

Just as car manufacturers now producing electric motor vehicles have not abandoned the production and sales promotion of fossil fuel powered cars, no tobacco company would do the equivalent with its combustible tobacco products. But progressive governments like France, Germany, India, and Norway have set dates after which the sales of new fossil fuel powered vehicles will be banned. Many more will follow.

Over many decades, governments have acted to ban a huge range of unsafe, deadly products (thalidomide, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, countless unsafe consumer goods), and exploitative practices (slavery, people trafficking, child labour). With tobacco companies now embracing the rhetoric of the end of smoking, it is time for governments to take the industry at its word and set those dates when combustible tobacco products will be banned.

Footnotes

• Provenance: Commissioned, not peer reviewed.
• Competing interests: None declared.
References
1. ↵
Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Global foundation launched to accelerate an end to smoking. 13 September 2017. www.smoke-freeworld.org/newsroom/global-foundation-launches-accelerate-end-smoking.
2. ↵
Philip Morris International. Dear shareholder. 2017. http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/IROL/14/146476/AR_2017/index.html#letter.
3. ↵
Corporate Accountability International. New report: Philip Morris International global marketing campaign targets teens, violating the law. 2014. www.stopcorporateabuse.org/press-release/new-report-philip-morris-international-global-marketing-campaign-targets-teens.
4. ↵
Parascandola M. Lessons from the history of tobacco harm reduction: The National Cancer Institute’s Smoking and Health Program and the “less hazardous cigarette”. Nicotine Tob Res2005;358:779-89. doi:10.1080/14622200500262584 pmid:16191749.
5. ↵
Wilson N, Weerasekera D, Peace J, Edwards R, Thomson G, Devlin M. Misperceptions of “light” cigarettes abound: national survey data. BMC Public Health2009;358:126. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-126 pmid:19426502.
6. ↵
Fields N, Chapman S. Chasing Ernst L Wynder: 40 years of Philip Morris’ efforts to influence a leading scientist. J Epidemiol Community Health2003;358:571-8. doi:10.1136/jech.57.8.571 pmid:12883059.
7. ↵
Yach D, Bialous SA. Junking science to promote tobacco. Am J Public Health2001;358:1745-8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.91.11.1745 pmid:11684592.
8. ↵
Charles D. How one man tried to slim down Big Soda from the inside. National Public Radio 2013. www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/01/28/169733003/how-one-man-tried-to-slim-down-big-soda-from-the-inside.
9. ↵
Bialous S, Chapman S, Freeman B, Shatenstein S. Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control. World Health Organization. WHO Tobacco Free Initiative. Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2008. www.who.int/tobacco/resources/publications/Tobacco%20Industry%20Interference-FINAL.pdf.
10. ↵
Unfairtobacco. Open letter from 115 groups to PMI. 2017. www.unfairtobacco.org/en/open-letter-quitpmi.
11. ↵
He E, Felstead A. Big Tobacco has a death wish. Bloomberg Gadfly. 2017. www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-09-20/philip-morris-and-the-slow-death-of-smoking.
12. ↵
Chapman S, Freeman B. Removing the emperor’s clothes. Plain tobacco packaging in Australia. Sydney. Sydney University Press 2016 p92. https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au//bitstream/2123/12257/7/9781743324295_Chapman_RemovingtheEmperorsClothes_FT.pdf.
13. ↵
Gartrell A. Philip Morris ordered to pay millions in costs for plain packaging case. Sydney Morning Herald. 2017; July 9. www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/philip-morris-ordered-to-pay-australia-millions-in-costs-for-plain-packaging-case-20170709-gx7mv5.html.
14. ↵
Wikipedia. Useful idiot. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot.
15. ↵
Current opinions on teen vaping run the gamut from harmful to protective. http://youthandsocialissues.com/e-cigarette-use-as-a-predictor-of-cigarette-smoking.

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.

Anti-smoking adverts by Cancer Research see charity in row over barmy Brussels rules that would BAN them

ADVERTS by Cancer Research urging Brits to quit smoking are at the centre of a row over barmy Brussels rules that would ban them, The Sun can reveal.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4528776/penpushers-ban-adverts-by-cancer-research-uk/

The leading cancer charity want to launch an advertising blitz next month as part of the annual “Stoptober” to urge smokers to “quit or switch” to using e-cigarettes.

Under EU advertising law, anything that promotes nicotine is outlawed

But charity sources say they were warned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that they will be breaking EU rules by promoting vaping e-cigs — despite research showing it is 95 per cent safer than traditional smoking.

And today it emerged the Department of Health had stepped in to say public health campaigns should be exempt from the Brussels ruling.

The EU’s Committee on Advertising Practice introduced a ruling in February that outlaws “indirect” marketing promotions of nicotine — which includes e-cigs.

But in a 2016 report, the Royal College of Physicians claimed it was in the “interests” of public health “to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.”

Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, George Butterworth, said: “Research so far shows e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking and may help smokers quit.

Research shows that e-cigarettes are much safer than regular cigarettes

“Smokers who’ve not succeeded in stopping using other methods may want to try swapping to e-cigarettes.

“Stopping smoking is the single best thing a smoker can do for their health.”

The ASA said yesterday: “Our rules prohibits ads for unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, in line with European law which took effect in 2016. Ads for products and brands are prohibited and have not been seen or heard on TV or radio since last year.

However they added that the Department for Health believe “the prohibition would not cover public health campaigns about the relative risks of e-cigarettes verses tobacco products by Public Health England or local stop smoking services.

Today it emerged the Department of Health had stepped in to say public health campaigns should be exempt from the Brussels ruling

But they warned: “Clearly, those ads must not promote a specific e-cigarette product or brand.”

A record amount of people succeeded in quitting smoking in the first six months of this year, data from University College London revealed this week.

But the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have refused to endorse vaping.

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.

Canadian health groups respond to Philip Morris International’s $1 billion research fund

Download (PDF, 47KB)

The Union denounces PMI launch of a ‘Foundation for a Smoke-free World’

Download (PDF, 23KB)

Imee Marcos, Ilocos Norte officials apologize to Fariñas over resolutions

The rival politicians from Ilocos Norte eventually patch things up, as Marcos tells Fariñas that they are ‘very, very sorry’ for declaring him persona non grata

https://www.rappler.com/nation/180747-ilocos-norte-imee-marcos-apology-house-farinas

After several hours of debate and argument, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and provincial board members apologized to the House of Representatives and to Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas for a resolution and a draft resolution which offended lawmakers.

One by one, members of the board present during a Thursday, August 31 hearing into the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in the province, apologized to both the House and Fariñas. Several of the board members were either personal friends or former local government subordinates of Fariñas himself.

The House committee on good government and public accountability had earlier criticized two resolutions – one which was passed and the other, shelved – regarding an ongoing inquiry. One resolution declared Fariñas, former Ilocos Norte governor, persona non grata over the probe.

Another resolution condemned the probe, criticizing the “tyranny” of the House and accusing lawmakers of holding the probe “in aid of [their] political ambition.” This resolution was eventually archived.

The House committee ordered the provincial board members to explain why they should not be held in contempt for the two resolutions.

“I will propose that in their next session, it be withdrawn with apologies. I think we were all inflamed with concern and worry, and as a result, are very, very sorry that this may, in some way or another, offended or interfered in the operations of the House,” said Marcos, who had signed the resolution declaring Fariñas persona non grata.

After their apologies, Fariñas proposed to “just forgive” the Ilocos Norte officials. The crowd, composed primarily of Ilocos Norte officials and House staff, erupted into applause.

Fariñas, however, warned that the House would not be as kind should the incident happen again. “Let this serve as a warning to all other entities to respect also the proceedings of the House because a repetition of such an offense will be dealt with more severely by the House,” he said.

The House, because of a resolution filed by Fariñas, is looking into the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in the purchase of vehicles for Ilocos Norte. During Thursday’s hearing, documents from the vehicle seller and the local government indicated a P195,000 difference between the selling price and the purchase price declared by the local government.

Six Ilocos Norte officials – those involved in the purchase of the vehicles – were detained by the House for nearly two months for refusing to answer questions properly.

TobaccoUnmasked at Sri Lanka observatory

Download (PDF, 57KB)

Fariñas, Marcos swap raps of stealing original tobacco fund papers

House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas has called out Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos for her “very cheap and wild desperation shot,” after she accused him of stealing the original documents on transactions using proceeds from the tobacco excise tax.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/915402/farinas-marcos-swap-raps-of-stealing-original-tobacco-fund-papers

Marcos claimed in a Wednesday statement that Fariñas’ personnel swiped the original documents from the Commission on Audit’s office inside the provincial capitol. She added that the Ilocos Six officials only declined to give sworn statements on the photocopies presented to avoid the risk of committing perjury.

Sought for comment, Fariñas called out Marcos for “coming up with a yarn” and shot back that “her people stole the original documents and now claim the loss of such as their alibi not to remember the transactions subject of the inquiry”

“Really? Who’s using the loss of the originals as an alibi in not remembering the transactions under question?” he exclaimed.

At the same time, he mocked Marcos for appearing in a July 13 press conference in Manila, where she compared the investigation to the politics of Game of Thrones and quoted: “The North remembers and it never forgets.”

“She even borrowed a line from the Game of Thrones that the North remembers! Really? How come the Amnesiac 6 do not remember the P66.45M cash advances that Imee gave them?” Fariñas said.

“She should appear at the hearing, if she is really from the North, and show the Filipino people how she’ll help the Amnesiac 6 remember their suspicious cash transactions.”

Fariñas also called out Marcos for asking the Supreme Court to prohibit the House good government and public accountability committee’s inquiry while going on “a media blitz for her false statements.”

“The public clearly sees who is spending millions of pesos to cover up the loss of the bulk of P66.45M of tobacco funds,” he said.

The Ilocos Six refers to the following employees: provincial planning and development officer and bids and awards committee chair Pedro Agcaoili, provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog, provincial treasurer Josephine Calajate, accountant Eden Battulayan, and treasury office staff Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor.

They were detained at the House since May 29 after giving unsatisfactory answers during the committee inquiry on the alleged misuse of P66.45-million tobacco tax proceeds to purchase government vehicles supposedly without public bidding, instead of spending on projects for the benefit of tobacco farmers. SFM

 

Tobacco Industry Makes Strides in Trump’s Washington

President Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists in Washington, but six months into his administration it seems the swamp is winning.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/tobacco_companies_trump_administration_20170713

A new report published in The Guardian exposes how tobacco companies are gaining significant political victories under Trump, due to lobbying efforts and the fact that tobacco business insiders have been appointed to top positions in the president’s administration. Jessica Glenza explains:

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT. …

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

The companies now securing regulatory wins are also partly responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. “For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000,” Glenza reports. “The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.”

Prior to becoming president, Trump profited from tobacco companies, Glenza says. His past financial disclosures “show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios,” although he has since claimed (without offering any proof) to have sold his stocks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of Trump’s administration including Vice President Mike Pence have deep ties to the tobacco industry. Glenza shows the links between tobacco company donations and pro-tobacco policymaking.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a longtime opponent of smoking, tells The Guardian. “As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy.”