Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which describes itself as an independent body seeking to “accelerate an end to smoking”, was formally registered in the US State of Delaware as a tax-exempt corporation on 8 September 2017.
- 1 Background
- 2 Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
- 3 TobaccoTactics Resources
- 4 Relevant Link
- 5 Notes
The Foundation is led by Derek Yach, former Head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Tobacco Free Initiative.
Yach’s Previous Views on Tobacco Companies and How They Misuse Science and Undermine Health Policy
In 2001, Yach and his co-author warned of tobacco companies’ misuse of science. In a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, Yach warned that “the tobacco industry continues to fund, directly or indirectly, prestigious academic centers and scientists in its effort to achieve scientific credibility” with much of that research focused on harm reduction. He continued: “The tobacco companies’ investment, statements, and research in this field make it clear that they regard new ‘reduced harm’ products as an important strategic and financial priority.” Yach also questioned the standards of proof used by the tobacco industry to asses ‘reduced harm’, warning that “the goal of the tobacco industry’s ‘scientific strategy’ was not to reveal the truth, but to protect the industry from loss of revenue and to prevent governments from establishing effective tobacco control measures”.
The year before, Yach had published a paper with another co-author, in which he labelled the tobacco industry as “the vector of the tobacco epidemic”, and warned of the growing threat of “the globalisation of tobacco industry influence”, arguing that to address the industry’s power and influence would require a global public health approach.
In his role as Director of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, Yach helped steer the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global health Treaty which came into force in 2005. The Treaty includes Article 5.3 which mandates Parties to protect public health policies from the the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Working for Corporations That Produce Products Potentially Harmful to Health
Since leaving WHO, Yach has been an advocate for harnessing commercial interests to achieve public health objectives.
In 2007, Yach left the WHO to take up the position of Senior Vice-President Global Health and Agriculture Policy at sugary drinks company PepsiCo.
There is evidence that, like tobacco companies, PepsiCo has tried to control and misuse the scientific conversation around public health, create doubt about healthy diet, and used front groups to oppose even voluntary regulation.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Funded by Philip Morris International
The tobacco company agreed to contribute US$80 million annually for the next 12 years starting from 2018, with specific contributions depending on the Foundation’s “requirements and operations”. Although a large sum of money, US$80 million represents only 0.1% of PMI’s revenues and 1% of the company’s profits. It also pales in significance compared to PMI’s annual spending on its longstanding sponsorship deal with racing giant Ferrari, which was quietly renewed in September 2017, and has previously been estimated to cost PMI in the region of US$160 million annually.
The day after the Foundation’s launch, film director Aaron Biebert, responsible for the Foundation’s promotional video and strong advocate of de-regulation and the use of e-cigarettes to quit smoking, claimed that “PMI will not be the only donor [of the Foundation]. He [Yach] will have other big donations coming from traditional sources like the Gates Foundation or Bloomberg Charities, but decided to get going now despite the potential reputational risk he faces”. This claim was swiftly rebutted by both the Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, who stated that neither organisation was funding the new Foundation.
The Foundation asserts that ‘independence’ and ‘transparency’ are its core values, and that the Foundation’s bylaws prevent PMI and other tobacco companies “from having any influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities”. In a recent blog post, Stan Glantz accused the Foundation’s claim of independence to be “like all past industry front groups”. A front group is an organisation that purports to represent one agenda while in reality serving some other party or interest. In his 2001 paper, which warned of the tobacco industry’s misuse of science, Yach warned that “the use of front groups and consultants is a wellestablished tobacco industry practice to avoid dealing with its lack of public credibility”.
“Accelerate the End of Smoking”?
Elaborating on his decision to work with a tobacco company, Yach told UK newspaper The Guardian in an email that “I have been working with PMI to establish a foundation to accelerate the end of smoking and tackle the consequences for tobacco farmers”. Yach continued: “From the start, the intent has been to create an independent foundation that meets the very highest standards of legal and ethical norms”. Critics have specifically pointed out that PMI hasn’t stopped actively opposing tobacco control policies aimed at reducing tobacco use, nor stopped promoting cigarettes to children in Africa and Asia.
In July 2017, only one month before the establishment of the Foundation, news agency Reuters published leaked internal PMI documents demonstrating the tobacco company’s attempts to subvert FCTC provisions. Among other things, it showed the company had lobbied national governments to send non-health delegates to weaken FCTC provisions which usually require consensus to be adopted. The documents also showed that PMI was violating India’s anti-smoking regulations by promoting cigarettes in colourful adverts and handing out free cigarettes at nightclubs and bars frequented by young people.
An open letter to PMI dated 14 September 2017 and signed by 123 health groups urged the company, if it were serious about ‘designing a smoke-free future’, to “immediately cease the production, marketing and sale of cigarettes”. To date, PMI has neither responded to the letter, or ceased selling cigarettes.
Launched at Tobacco Industry-Funded Event
On 13 September 2017, Yach tweeted a photo of himself in front of a GTNF banner, adding that he was looking forward “to building partnerships” (see image 1).
Using Consultancies with Long-Standing Links to Tobacco Industry
Tom Langford of PR consultancy Feinstein Kean Healthcare (FHK) was the spokesperson for the Foundation in September 2017. FKH is part of the Ogilvy Group, a large PR firm which has had long-standing links with the tobacco industry, including running advertising and PR campaigns for the tobacco industry from the 1950s.
The Foundation also employed management consultants McKinsey in organising an October 2017 stakeholder event in London, despite the management consultancy being implicated in a 2017 corruption scandal in South Africa. McKinsey has also helped tobacco companies with business planning going as far back as the 1950s, when McKinsey was advising Philip Morris on its research program. In the 1980s, the firm advised Philip Morris USA how to optimise its cigarette sales and marketing processes. In the 1990s, McKinsey worked with British American Tobacco.
- Philip Morris International
- Front Groups
- Influencing Science
- Influencing Science: Funding Scientists
- Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Global Foundation Launches to Accelerate An End To Smoking, Foundation’s website, 13 September 2017, accessed September 2017
- Certificate of Incorporation of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Inc, Foundation’s website, 9 September 2017, accessed October 2017
- D. Yach, S. Aguinaga Bialous, Junking Science to Promote Tobacco, American Journal of Public Health, 2001 November;91(11):1745-1748
- D. Yach, D. Bettcher, Globalisation of Tobacco Industry Influence and New Global Responses, Tobacco Control 2000;9:206-2016, accessed October 2017
- L. Whipp, The health expert happy to work with the ‘enemy’. Financial Times, 22 February 2017
- The Vitality Institute, Derek Yach Profile, undated, accessed September 2017
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- A. Biebert, Email sent to undisclosed recipients on 14 September 2017 11:05pm titled “Dr. Derek Yach’s Billion Dollar Foundation Launches”
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- D. Yach (@swimdaily). “#smokefreeworld @gtnf2017 look forward to building partnerships to tackle the world’s most preventable global health risk-smoking.” 13 September 2017, 2:19 PM. Tweet
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