Philip Morris International (PMI) says it is staking its future on smoke-free products, and the tobacco company announced recently that it would contribute around $80 million each year, for the next 12 years, to a new non-profit organization called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Although the foundation is supposedly independent, the tobacco giant is so far its only contributor.
In a public statement issued Sept. 15, ACS called the initiative "a new twist out of the tobacco industry's deadly playbook." Our press release says: "This attempt by Philip Morris International to paint itself as a public health partner is manipulative and dangerous. It's a continuation of a decades-long effort to paint over tobacco's role in spreading death and misery around the globe."
On Sept. 28, the World Health Organization told governments not to get involved in the foundation. The U.N. health body said there was a conflict of interest in a tobacco firm funding such research.
PMI says its future is in e-cigarettes and other smoke-free nicotine delivery systems, but anti-tobacco organizations are skeptical, noting that it has had not stopped marketing the cigarettes it agrees are harmful.
According to PMI's press release, the new foundation will be headed by Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization cabinet director and executive director for noncommunicable diseases and mental health. At WHO he was deeply involved with the development of the world's treaty on tobacco control, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. He believes that vaping offers real possibilities for cutting smoking globally.
"If Philip Morris International is serious about ending the epidemic of smoking-caused illness, it has the power to do it: Stop selling cigarettes. Stop spending billions to market cigarettes. Stop suing governments around the world. And stop fighting every meaningful, evidence-based tobacco control effort," the American Cancer Society's statement said.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World website says "as established in the Foundation's bylaws, PMI and the tobacco industry are precluded from having any influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities. Independence and transparency are core principles of the Foundation and all activities will be conducted with full transparency, free of tobacco industry influence."
In its public statement about PMI's announcement, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids had this to say:
"This isn't the first time Philip Morris has stated a commitment to funding research with the goal of reducing the death and disease caused by cigarettes, but every prior announcement was nothing more than a smokescreen to enable it to continue business as usual." You can read its full statement here.