31 January 2018:
Recently more institutions have expressed their opposition to the claims of Philip Morris International (PMI) funded Foundation for Smoke-Free World. The Foundation which claims to be independent from PMI, has made public its Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws. The question is, is it really as independent as it claims to be?
Seventeen deans of America’s top schools of public health announced that their schools are not accepting funding from or pursuing work with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. In a letter dated 25 January 2018, the deans said, “Our schools of public health consider funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World to be equivalent to funding from the tobacco industry and, as a result, we are not collaborating with the Foundation.”
The deans ask four questions:
- How is the research agenda established, whether prevention of nicotine addiction and tobacco use is considered?
- Whether there is an impermeable firewall between Philip Morris International and the Foundation?
- How Philip Morris International will use the Foundation for its own benefit? and
- How Philip Morris demonstrates a true commitment to meaningful change as a company, including (1) a specific timeline and milestones for phasing out advertising of cigarettes and cigarettes themselves; and, (2) the immediate cessation of activities hostile to the policies advanced by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?
PMI has been claiming that its new heat-not-burn tobacco product is safer than regular cigarettes. Last week, an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told the company that it should not claim its new iQOS electronic tobacco device can reduce the risk of tobacco-related diseases. The panel said Philip Morris had not proven that iQOS reduced harm compared with regular cigarettes. The panel concluded that PMI had not proven that the device, which heats tobacco but not burn it, reduces harm compared with cigarettes. See here
Meanwhile in Poland, the Ministry of Health has alerted all medical schools about the activities of PMI Foundation. The MOH informed the schools that Poland is a party to WHO FCTC and treats PMI Foundation as the tobacco industry’s activity. The letter warns that schools should not accept any support from the foundation and that any research funded from this source could not be used to advocate for changes in law.
Is the Foundation truly independent and transparent as it claims to be? Jonathan Liberman, Director of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer published a blog article analysing the contents of the Foundation’s ‘Pledge Agreement’, Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws against Derek Yach’s claims of the Foundation’s independence from PMI.
According to Liberman, “[I]t is at best significantly incomplete to suggest that the Foundation’s purposes are focused on ‘ending smoking’ without saying that the ending of smoking is to be pursued in the context of the use of ‘alternative’ products and ‘harm reduction’. Philip Morris has a significant commercial interest in alternative products / harm reduction, whereas prevention of uptake and cessation of use, without replacement by other products, are not in its interests.”
The USD960 million from PMI is to be spent on certain things only. Liberman explains how the money cannot be spent on things that are inconsistent with Philip Morris’s commercial interests. The Foundation does not enjoy the kind of freedom to change as circumstances change. Yach’s ‘independent foundation’ is more akin to a program of Philip Morris, with Yach and the Foundation’s Directors, have a degree of day-to-day autonomy in their operations, but with the fundamental settings put in place by, and enforced, by Philip Morris’s USD960 million.