13 Oct 2017
The global tobacco control community remains deeply concerned by the creation of the so-called “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World”, funded exclusively by the multinational tobacco company, Philip Morris International (PMI).
In its 14 Oct. issue, The Lancet published four pieces on the Foundation, including one by its head, Derek Yach.“The articles in the most recent issue of The Lancet have, if anything, raised our level of alarm,” said Francis Thompson, Executive Director of the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control (FCA). The FCA is a global alliance of nearly 500 member organisations in more than 100 countries.
FCA notes that there is a long and tragic history of tobacco companies funding questionable research to delay effective measures to reduce deaths from smoking. Aware of their lack of credibility on health, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies also have a lengthy track record of paying third parties to advance their arguments and providing funds for what they describe as independent research efforts.
It is because of this history that the countries of the world, in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), made a binding legal commitment to protect their policy-making process from tobacco industry interference, via Article 5.3 of the Convention and later via detailed Guidelines for its implementation. For example, the latter include the important reminder that “Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.”
Many details about the new Foundation remain surprisingly vague – notably including the terms of its funding arrangement with PMI. FCA members are left to conclude that it is part of a broader strategy to undermine global efforts, enshrined in the WHO FCTC, to prevent and reduce tobacco use. The FCTC is the world’s first health treaty, which binds more than 180 countries and covers more than 90% of the world’s population. PMI and other tobacco companies have a long and well documented history of seeking to dilute the FCTC and prevent its implementation.
Accordingly, the FCA recommends that no government, organisation or researcher accept money from, endorse or enter into partnerships with the PMI-funded Foundation. “We strongly urge all governments and government institutions to abide by Article 5.3 and all other bodies and institutions to uphold the spirit of this important safeguard against tobacco industry influence,” said Thompson. The slow-motion tragedy of the continuing global tobacco epidemic requires us to work harder to implement what already works – and tobacco industry resistance is a key impediment to doing so. It also requires us to be open to new ideas and vigorous debate, including on matters of harm reduction. But given the track record of the tobacco industry and PMI, its continued aggressive marketing of its cigarette products and its opposition to the full and effective implementation of the FCTC, there is serious reason to be concerned about the true independence and long-term impact of the Foundation. This debate needs to occur without the toxic influence of tobacco industry lobbying and funding.
For further information: Francis Thompson, thompsonf(@)fctc.org, Mob.:+1 613 355 6532 (Canada, EDT = GMT-4)