Public Health Groups and Leaders… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

< Return to main PMI foundation page

Public Health Groups and Leaders Worldwide Urge Rejection Of Philip Morris International’s New Foundation

The World Health Organization and other public health leaders around the world have spoken out against the Philip Morris International-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which the tobacco giant claims will support “independent” research. They are urging governments, the public health community, researchers and others to reject the foundation for the following reasons:

  • The foundation follows the same strategy Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have used for over 60 years to fight efforts to reduce smoking. Tobacco companies have a long history of funding supposedly “independent” research. Instead of advancing public health, this research has been used by the tobacco companies to impede progress. Tobacco companies have repeatedly manipulated the science to deceive the public and these “independent research” efforts have diverted the research agenda away from the most important issues, sought to sow doubt and controversy about both scientifically proven findings and the evidence about the most effective tobacco control strategies and distracted attention away from the role of the same tobacco companies in causing the problem.

  • Far from being a part of the solution, Philip Morris remains a primary cause of the problem. The foundation is a smokescreen that diverts attention away from the need to stop PMI from preventing governments from acting. Philip Morris continues to make most of its income from selling its deadliest products – cigarettes – and it brags about selling the number one global cigarette brand, Marlboro. While claiming to seek a “smoke-free world,” Philip Morris continues to aggressively market cigarettes, often in ways that appeal to children, and it attacks efforts to reduce smoking across the globe. A recent investigative report by Reuters exposed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the international tobacco control treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

  • The foundation is a distraction from the existing global consensus about the most effective way to reduce tobacco use: the WHO FCTC. Governments shouldn’t allow the PMI-funded foundation to divert their focus from implementing the proven strategies to reduce tobacco use called for by the WHO FCTC. These proven strategies include higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. None of these strategies are the focus of the PMI-funded foundation. If Philip Morris is serious about creating a smoke-free world, it should stop fighting these policies and support them instead.

  • There is a reason that Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC obligates parties to protect public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. Guidelines for implementing Article 5.3 state that governments should limit interactions with the tobacco industry, avoid partnership and not accept financial or other contributions from the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests. To date, 180 countries and the European Union are party to the treaty.

  • The conflict of interest is clear. The foundation’s website highlights that its priority is advancing the conversation on “harm reduction”. It’s not surprising that PMI is increasingly promoting products like “heat not burn” tobacco products which are supposedly less harmful than traditional cigarettes. It is not a coincidence that PMI’s and the foundation’s goals are so closely aligned.

Here are excerpts from statements by the WHO and other public health organizations and leaders. Click on the links for full statements.

World Health Organization

“The UN General Assembly has recognized a “fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.” 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”, the Organization will therefore not engage with this new 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….

WHO will not partner with the foundation. Governments should not partner with the foundation and the public health community should follow this lead.”

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat

“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….

There is extensive evidence 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.”

American Cancer Society

“This attempt by Philip Morris International to paint itself as a public health partner is manipulative and dangerous. It is a new twist out of the tobacco industry’s deadly playbook, but nobody should be fooled. It’s a continuation of a decades-long effort to paint over tobacco’s role in spreading death and misery around the globe….

American Cancer Society policy prohibits partnering with any research or public health effort that takes tobacco industry support. It is unethical to take money earned off the top cause of preventable deaths in the world.

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.”

Action on Smoking & Health (U.S)

“The tobacco industry has a long history of working to undermine and subvert scientific research. In 1954, tobacco companies formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, allegedly to fund independent research on smoking and lung cancer. Internal industry documents have now shown that the true purpose of this group was to spread doubt and convince the public that dangers of smoking were not proven.”

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

“Philip Morris has a long history of deceiving the public and doing whatever it takes to sell cigarettes. This is not the first time Philip Morris has announced that it is funding “independent” research, nor is it the first time it has claimed to support “independent” researchers. Each of its past efforts have been nothing more than a smokescreen to divert attention from its marketing practices, the harm its products cause and the strong scientific consensus that already existed – both about the harm of its products and the scientifically proven ways to reduce tobacco use. There is no reason to believe that this announcement is any different….

Philip Morris’ claimed commitment to a “smoke-free world” cannot be taken seriously so long as it continues to aggressively market cigarettes and fight proven policies to reduce smoking and save lives around the world. Until Philip Morris ceases these harmful activities, its claims should be seen as yet another public relations stunt aimed at repairing the company’s image and not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products.”

Framework Convention Alliance (FCA)

“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 long 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…. Accordingly, the FCA recommends that no government, organization or researcher accept money from, endorse or enter into partnerships with the PMI-funded foundation.”

International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union)

“This is a one billion dollar bribe to secure Philip Morris a seat at the table with public health policymakers globally. There is a fundamental conflict of interest between the goals of the tobacco industry and the goals of promoting public health.”

Truth Initiative

“Philip Morris International’s (PMI) recent announcement that it is establishing the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is an affront to public health, educators, researchers and advocates around the world who have been working tirelessly for decades to end the tobacco use epidemic. The fact that PMI claims to want to end smoking while, at the same time, being the world’s foremost seller of cigarettes, truly sounds like fake news….

The new Foundation for a Smoke-Free World raises the specter of the era when Philip Morris and other tobacco companies sought to establish industry-favorable research via the creation and funding of alleged independent research organizations, such as the “Council for Tobacco Research (CTR)” and the “Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR).” Ultimately, the purpose of these organizations was to protect the industry from litigation threats and government regulation by distributing questionable science to distract from the irrefutable evidence of the death and disease caused by tobacco. As a result, one of the conditions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement required the industry to dissolve these organizations. The profit motives of the tobacco industry and public health are simply incompatible, and this is a Pandora’s Box that should remain closed.”

Vital Strategies

“Consumers and governments shouldn’t fall for Philip Morris International’s bogus ‘investment in a healthier world.’ The tobacco industry is the world’s leading killer industry, bar none, and today’s announcement is nothing more than a cynical public relations move. They seek to regain a mask of respectability for their killer products and unethical business practices, which has been proven over decades – and in recent exposés – to include just this type of deceptive marketing….

We’ve seen this script before – when the tobacco industry announces initiatives proclaiming it wants to reduce the health impacts of its deadly business, it really only promotes its products. It funds research to counter and denigrate independent health experts and research.

And when its own experts’ research findings are unflattering, the research is not published, and even denied, until the industry is legally forced to reveal the truth….

If PMI was serious about a smoke-free world, rather than profiting at the expense of children and other vulnerable people around the globe, it would quit the cigarette business today.”

World Heart Federation/Global Coalition for Circulatory Health (published in The Lancet, October 14, 2017)

“Despite funding a foundation that claims its goal is “ultimately eliminating smoking worldwide,” Philip Morris International (PMI) continues to invest billions of dollars in marketing cigarettes worldwide, focusing many of these efforts in low-income and middle-income countries to gain new customers....

The best way to tackle the smoking epidemic and achieve a smoke-free world is by implementing policies set out in the WHO FCTC – not by engaging with an industry whose disingenuousness shows it cannot be trusted with people’s health.”

Statements by Canadian Health Groups (Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Non-Smokers Rights Association, Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control and Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco)

“In this recent ploy, Philip Morris is using the same bag of tricks it invented in the 1950s, to create its own research bodies in order to manipulate the research environment and delay effective measures to reduce smoking,” explained Neil Collishaw, Research Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Commentary by Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat (published October 13, 2017, in Tobacco Control journal)

“The establishment of the foundation ties into a broader PMI strategy to ensure that there is little or no regulation on new tobacco products PMI is introducing. It also fits into the tobacco industry’s corporate social responsibility schemes. Such projects are designed to mislead or confuse public opinion. They are the anti-truth.

How do we know? Reams of research and legal documents on tobacco industry behaviour confirm that the foundation’s public statements fit seamlessly into the tobacco industry’s strategy, which is to sell new products while continuing to sell cigarettes. Over decades, tobacco industry dollars have funded influence buying, covert activities and scientific misrepresentation. Industry money has never advanced the cause of public health, as is made clear in excruciating detail by the millions of tobacco industry documents….

It is already clear that this tobacco industry-funded foundation fits in a long-established and sinister pattern of corporate chicanery.”

Commentary in The Lancet by Mike Daube, Rob Moodie and Martin McKee (October 14, 2017)

“There is action that PMI could take to deliver a smoke-free world. It could end its ferocious opposition to the evidence-based measures recommended by WHO and the FCTC to reduce smoking. It could end its manufacturing, marketing, lobbying, and litigation activities….

But PMI won’t do any of that. This latest initiative changes nothing. Tobacco companies will continue to lie and deceive. They will continue to seek and find researchers and others – “lobbyists, door-openers, strategists, spin doctors” – who are willing to accept money and work with an industry that still knowingly sells and markets a product that will kill between half and two-thirds of its regular users….

Meanwhile, governments should continue to pursue evidence-based measures that have been shown to reduce smoking. They must exclude tobacco companies from any policy involvement. Health organisations should continue to press for action and expose the aims and activities of the tobacco industry. Scientists should reject the siren songs of involvement in tobacco industry promotions. And the public should be aware that Big Tobacco remains as it was, the main cause of premature death and disability from the world’s most preventable pandemic.”

Blog Post by 14 International Tobacco Control Advocates (published September 19, 2017 in Tobacco Control journal)

Philip Morris’ foundation “will be used to do more of what the industry always does: create doubt, contribute further to existing disputes within the global tobacco control movement, shore up its own competitive position, and go on pushing its cigarettes as long as it possibly can….

What is required to end smoking isn’t helping the world’s leading cigarette manufacturer in its ongoing image makeover while it continues to try to derail the significant public health progress made to date. What is required is leaders who have the humility to work with the movement and policymakers with the backbones of steel needed to stand up to the industry to enact and implement strong tobacco control measures, including high taxes, smoke free laws, effective media campaigns to denormalize both smoking and tobacco companies, and marketing, packaging and retailing regulations to make these deadly products less ubiquitous. The global movement public health activists built over decades of toiling in the trenches must stand together and not allow PMI to buy more time by executing a 21st century version of the ‘Frank Statement.’”

Simon Chapman, Emeritus Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia (editorial published in The BMJ, September 26, 2017)

“If Philip Morris really wanted smoking to decline, it could announce tomorrow that it will voluntarily introduce large graphic health warnings and plain packaging on all its tobacco products.... Knowing the impact of price on sales, it could massively increase its wholesale price 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…. The tobacco industry has armies of lobbyists whose goals are to defeat, dilute and delay any policy or initiative that threatens its cash cow.”

Stanton Glantz, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco

“If PMI was serious about achieving a smoke free world, it could stop aggressively lobbying against proper implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or stop selling Marlboros and other cigarettes.”

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

“The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) joins the international public health community in denouncing the Philip Morris International (PMI)-funded Foundation for a Smoke-free World that is positioned to sabotage global tobacco control. Governments, universities, and health advocates must reject any partnerships with this foundation.”

17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health

“Anyone affiliated with Philip Morris International’s Foundation for a Smoke-free World is ineligible to attend the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health and will not be admitted.

This statement is a reiteration of the core conference admission policy: Affiliations with tobacco entities (current and / or during the past five years) will make an individual ineligible to attend or present at the conference.

This policy is aligned with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Article 5.3, which states in its guidelines: ‘There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interest and public health policy interests.’”

Senior Editorial Team of Tobacco Control journal: Why Tobacco Control still won’t publish tobacco industry funded work, even if the funding is laundered through PMI’s new ‘independent’ foundation

“Regardless of our individual views on the potential harms and benefits of emerging nicotine delivery devices (e.g., electronic cigarettes), the tobacco control community can and should agree on the need to protect public health efforts from the tobacco industry. The industry’s profits continue to be built on the sale of products that have caused a pandemic of suffering, death and disease.”