Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

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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][2]

Main Staff at the Foundation

The Foundation's main staff:

  • Derek Yach: leads the Foundation and is the former Head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Tobacco Free Initiative.
  • Tom Harding: is the Foundation's Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer.[3]
  • Jim Lutzweiler: Vice President Agriculture and Livelihoods, and former Senior Director of Global Public Policy at PepsiCo.[3]
  • Ehsan Latif: In November 2017, Latif was appointed the Program Director at the Foundation. He was formerly with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, according to his LinkedIn profile.[4]
  • Elizabeth Thompson: Vice President Strategic Partnerships

Foundation’s Board

  • Lisa Gable is a former US ambassador and chairman emeritus of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), “a non-profit organization that aims to reduce obesity among children in the United States.” [3] The Board of directors of the HWCF includes executives from Nestle, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and General Mills. [5]
  • Dyborn Chibonga is the regional head for Malawi and Mozambique at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
  • Martin Skancke is the founder and general manager of Skancke Consulting, having previously worked for the Norwegian Ministry of Finance and consultancy firm McKinsey.
  • Michael Sagner is a physician and chairman of the European Society of Preventive Medicine.
  • Zoe Feldman is the Managing Director at Almanac Investments, who previously worked for PepsiCo for eight years. [3]

Derek Yach

Derek 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.[6] 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.”[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11]

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Funded by Philip Morris International

Despite claims that it’s “seeking and expects to receive funding from other sources as well”[12], in September 2017 the Foundation’s sole funder was Philip Morris International (PMI).

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”.[13] Although a large sum of money, US$80 million represents only 0.1% of PMI’s revenues and 1% of the company’s profits.[14] 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.[15][16]

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”.[17] This claim was swiftly rebutted by both the Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, who stated that neither organisation was funding the new Foundation.[18][19]

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”.[12] In a recent blog post, Stan Glantz accused the Foundation’s claim of independence to be “like all past industry front groups”.[14] 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 well established tobacco industry practice to avoid dealing with its lack of public credibility”.[6]

“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”.[20] 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”.

Image 1.Yach’s tweet of 13 September 2017 promoting his attendance at industry-funded Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum
However, Yach’s comments have been met with skepticism given the well-documented historical and contemporary evidence of PMI’s extensive efforts to undermine tobacco control.[21][22][23][24] 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.[23]

In July 2017, only one month before the establishment of the Foundation, news agency Reuters published internal PMI documents demonstrating the tobacco company’s attempts to subvert FCTC provisions.[25][26] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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”.[27] PMI responded by an open letter claiming that if it were to stop selling cigarettes, smokers would not quit smoking but switch to its competitors brands.[28] “Indeed, our paramount business strategy is to replace cigarettes with less-harmful, smoke-free alternatives. That’s what we call a smoke-free future…". A smoke-free future that is not based on smoking cessation, but on smokers switching from cigarettes to another tobacco product.

Launched at Tobacco Industry-Funded Event

The Foundation was formally launched at a tobacco-industry funded event, called the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF).[29]

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).[30]

The event was sponsored, among others, by Altria, British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) , and PMI.[31]

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.[32] FKH is part of the Ogilvy Group[33], 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.[34]

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.[35][36] 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.[37] In the 1980s, the firm advised Philip Morris USA how to optimise its cigarette sales and marketing processes.[38][39] In the 1990s, McKinsey worked with British American Tobacco.[40]

TobaccoTactics Resources


Relevant Link

Foundation for a Smoke-Free World homepage


  1. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Global Foundation Launches to Accelerate An End To Smoking, Foundation’s website, 13 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  2. Certificate of Incorporation of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Inc, Foundation’s website, 9 September 2017, accessed October 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Foundation leadership, 2017, accessed November 2017
  4. LinkedIn, Ehsan Latif, accessed November 2017
  5. Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, About, accessed March 2018
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 D. Yach, S. Aguinaga Bialous, Junking Science to Promote Tobacco, American Journal of Public Health, 2001 November;91(11):1745-1748
  7. D. Yach, D. Bettcher, Globalisation of Tobacco Industry Influence and New Global Responses, Tobacco Control 2000;9:206-2016, accessed October 2017
  8. L. Whipp, The health expert happy to work with the ‘enemy’. Financial Times, 22 February 2017
  9. The Vitality Institute, Derek Yach Profile, undated, accessed September 2017
  10. M. Simon, Pepsico and public health: is the nation’s largest food company a model of corporate responsibility or master of public relations?, The City University of New York Law Review, Winter 2011, Volume 15, Issue 1
  11. B. Johnson, PepsiCo Distances Itself From Another Right-Wing Group: ‘Currently Not A Member’ Of the Heartland Institute, Think Progress, 5 April 2012, accessed October 2017
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  14. 14.0 14.1 S. Glantz, Derek Yach’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Eduction, 13 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  15. L. Edmondson, Ferrari renews Philip Morris partnership, ESPN, 4 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  16. Philip Morris renews Ferrari sponsorship on the quiet], ESPN, 14 May 2015, accessed September 2017
  17. A. Biebert, Email sent to undisclosed recipients on 14 September 2017 11:05pm titled “Dr. Derek Yach’s Billion Dollar Foundation Launches”
  18. K. Henning, Email to subscribers of FCA mailing list dated 15 September 2017 15:57:09, subject: Re: [fca_all] Fw: Derek Yach’s new foundation to support harm reduction research
  19. C. Lewis, Email to subscribers of FCA mailing list dated 15 September 2017 02:24, subject Re: [fca_all] Fw: Derek Yach’s new foundation to support harm reduction research
  20. S. Boseley, Tobacco company launches foundation to stub out smoking, The Guardian, 13 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  21. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat’s statement on the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, 19 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  22. The Union, The Union denounces PMI launch of a ‘Foundation for a Smoke-free World’, 13 September 2017, accessed September 2017
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  26. 26.0 26.1 A. Kalra, P. Bansal, et al, Part 2: Philip Morris takes aim at young people in India, and health officials are fuming, Reuters, 18 July 2017, accessed October 2017
  27. Open letter from 123 health groups to PMI, 14 September 2017, accessed October 2017
  28. Philip Morris International, Open Response to Letter of 14 September 2017 calling on PMI to stop selling cigarettes, 29 September 2017, accessed October 2017
  29. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Media Advisory: Foundation Forming to Eliminate Smoking Worldwide, 12 September 2017, accessed September 2017
  30. 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
  31. Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum 2017 New York City, USA, September 12-14, 2017, accessed September 2017
  32. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Contact Us, undated accessed September 2017
  33. Ogilvy FKH, Ogilvy Relationship, undated, accessed September 2017
  34. Ogilvy & Mather, Corporate Culture, accessed April 2013
  35. J. Cotterill, M. Marriage, South African opposition sets sights on McKinsey. Financial Times, 13 September 2017
  36. J. Cotterill, M. Marriage, McKinsey drawn further into South Africa’s influence scandal. Financial Times, 28 September 2017
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