Wire: Public health advocates want out of smoke-free foundation’s mailing list

19 December 2017:

On 1 December, Tobacco Watch wrote how the new Programme Director of Philip Morris International (PMI) funded Foundation for a Smoke-free World sent an email blast to many tobacco control advocates about an “announcement of two new initiatives”. Now a Wire story reports how on 9 December the President of the Foundation, Derek Yach, had emailed 344 prominent figures in global health encouraging them to apply for grants for projects that can “reduce deaths from smoking”.

The Wire story reports how Yach, in his unsolicited email, had also cc-ied three employees of PMI. Now, why would Yach do that when he had earlier issued a statement stating his foundation had “fully insulated itself from the influence of the tobacco industry”. The Wirerevealed the three employees as Boris Manchev, Helena Ferreira and Heloisa Glad.

Position in PMI
Boris Manchev Director of Philip Morris Ljubljana, Slovenia
Helena Ferreira Manager Business Unit North – Philip Morris International
Manager National Wholesalers, Portugal
Heloisa Glad

General Manager Central America Philip Morris International, Brazil

There are more questions:

  • Why these three PMI employees from Slovania, Portugal and Brazil?
  • How are these PMI employees connected to the Foundation?
  • What influence do the three have on the Foundation, if any?

According to the Wire report, Yach didn’t “BCC” those email IDs, enabling everyone know who else he was writing to. A number of the recipients had replied asking to be removed from his mailing list. This is Yach’s second email blast. On 29 November Yach had sent an email to a similar list titled, “Help Shape Our Research Agenda”.

Since the launch of the Foundation in September 2017, several international organisations have already made public statements about the Foundation including WHOFramework Convention AllianceThe International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung DiseaseTobacco Free KidsASH-USA, and The World Heart Foundation. However Yach still emailed officers or representatives from these organisations.

University of Bath’s TobaccoTactics that monitors tobacco industry groups has provided information on the staff of the Foundation. Besides Derek Yach and Ehsan Latif, the other executives are Tom Harding, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, and Jim Lutzweiler, Vice President Agriculture and Livelihoods.

According to TobaccoTactics, a PR consultancy Feinstein Kean Healthcare (FHK) did the promotions for the Foundation when it was launched. FKH is part of the Olgivy Group, a large PR firm which has had long-standing links with the tobacco industry.

The public health community is suspicious of the Foundation funded by PMI as history shows other foundations funded by PMI and transnational tobacco companies have actively undermined and opposed tobacco control measures. Table below shows a few examples:

Tobacco industry’s front groups and lobby groups

Groups funded by PMI/other tobacco companies How they fight tobacco control
Thai Tobacco Trade Association This group opposed tobacco control legislation in Thailand; see here
Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-growing Foundation This group conducts CSR activities on behalf of the tobacco industry and fights against bans on tobacco related CSR activities; see here
International Tobacco Growers Association This is front group set up by the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco control and oppose implementation of the WHO FCTC; see here
International Tax and Investment Center This group made recommendations to not have substantial tax increase for tobacco; see here

The FCTC Convention Secretariat has issued a Note Verbale advising not to apply or accept grants from the Foundation because this could damage tobacco control and jeopardise implementation of FCTC Article 5.3.

The Foundation wants smokers to switch to PMI’s heat-not-burn product, iQOS, (I quit ordinary smoking) however these products are not harmless. The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (Union) has released a position paper on HNB products explaining industry sponsored studies claim, under experimental settings, HNB tobacco products release as much as 90 to 95% less harmful constituents. However a peer-reviewed paper published in September 2017 by investigators independent from the tobacco industry found that the aerosol released from iQOS had higher levels of harmful constituents than PMI reported. Prior studies of past HNB products (such as RJR’s Eclipse) done independently of the tobacco company found no evidence that they were less harmful than combustible cigarettes.