Global Forum on Nicotine

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The Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) is an annual conference organised by London-based Knowledge Action Change Limited (KAC), which is headed by Professor Gerry Stimson.


The event was first held in 2014. Organisers described the context as:

“The arrival of new nicotine delivery systems, along with other lower risk alternatives to smoking, has forced rapid changes in nicotine science, public understanding, and the regulatory landscape. This has implications for many sectors including consumers, researchers, regulators, public health, tobacco control, policy analysts, and industry. The conference was designed to facilitate discussion across sectors.[1]

It has been held annually since in Poland. Its 2019 conference took place in Warsaw in June. Organisers described its theme as: “‘It’s time to talk about nicotine’ and will examine how attitudes towards the use of nicotine are changing and at some of its more positive and potentially beneficial uses.”[2] The event features a number of discussion panels as well as a film festival and a keynote address called the Michael Russell Oration. In 2019 this was given by Dr Ronald W. Dworkin, described as a practising anaesthesiologist who teaches at George Washington University and is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.[3] The forum says that: “The unique inclusive nature of the GFN continues to provide a platform for exchange and debate of often-contentious issues.”[2] In its terms and conditions, however, participants are told: “The organisers are aware of the need for good research. However, no participant may use attendance at the conference as an opportunity to collect data directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly on participants, or the event without the express permission of the organisers and the informed consent of subjects.”[4]

The GFN should not be confused with the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF), an annual tobacco-industry event.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Tobacco Industry Speakers and Panellists

Supporting and facilitating dialogue with the tobacco industry, the GFN event has provided a platform for the tobacco industry to promote its efforts in tobacco harm reduction.[5]

In 2019, GFN scheduled speakers included Moira Gilchrist from Philip Morris International (PMI) and Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson from Swedish Match. Scientists invited included Brad Rodu and Riccardo Polosa who have both received grants from tobacco companies. There are also libertarian blogger Martin Cullip, who has been honoured by industry front group Forest, and Terry Barnes, lifestyle economics fellow[6] at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank which receives tobacco funding and consistently opposes public health policies.[7] The speaker profiles follow a pattern set in previous years of fewer representatives from tobacco control organisations and more from industry-linked harm reduction and e-cigarette organisations. In 2018, GFN scheduled speakers included Laura Leigh Oyler from Reynolds American Inc (RAI), Oscar Camacho from British American Tobacco (BAT), and Christelle Haziza from PMI.[8][9] In 2017, invited speakers included two senior PMI employees who used the event to promote PMI's Heated Tobacco Products.[5][10][11] That year David O’Reilly, BAT’s Scientific Director was a panellist at a session on "Nicotine Futures: the tobacco industry and public health".[12] Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson, Director Public Affairs at Swedish Match, presented her company’s perspective on harm reduction and strongly criticised EU tobacco regulation that bans snus sales.[13]

Other invited GFN speakers with tobacco industry links have included:

Tobacco Interests on the Programme Committee

Robyn Gougelet, Senior Associate at consultancy Pinney Associates, was a member of the GFN 2018 and 2019 Programme Committee.[17][18] Gougelet’s tobacco harm reduction consultancy work is exclusively funded by American tobacco company RAI.[19] For more details on its relationship with the tobacco industry, click here.

Links to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

Image 2: GFN Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme (source:, accessed February 2018)

There are a number of links between speakers at the GFN and the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. The Foundation describes itself as “an independent, private foundation formed and operated free from the control or influence of any third party”. However it is funded solely by Philip Morris International and been extensively criticised for its links with the tobacco industry.[20] It has made a number of grants to individuals and organisations. Those connected with GFN include:

  • GFN organisers Knowledge Action Change (KAC) under its chief executive Gerry Stimson has received various grants from the Foundation to carry our promotional events and commission reports.
  • Dr Rajesh Sharan, who sits on the GFN organising committee, has received funding to set up a Centre of Excellence in India.
  • Dr Marewa Glover, who sits on the GFN organising committee, has received funding to set up a Centre of Excellence in New Zealand.
  • Ricardo Polosa is one of three members of the University of Catania involved with the GFN. A spin off from the Italian university, headed by Polosa, has received funding from the Foundation to set up a Centre of Excellence.
  • Aaron Biebert curates the GFN film festival and his company was commissioned to launch the Foundation.[21]
  • Derek Yach, the founder and president of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World gave the keynote address at the 2015 event.[15]

Scholarship Programme

KAC and the GFN jointly launched a Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme in 2018, which was sponsored by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (image 2.[22] That programme continued in 2019 with funding solely from the Foundation.[23] The sponsorship programme, which in 2018 awarded 15 scholarships to projects up to the value of US$7,500 each, aimed to:

  • build research capacity in the field of tobacco harm reduction;
  • develop the evidence base;
  • raise awareness of research and its implications for public health policy;
  • enable consumers to make more informed personal health choices; and
  • improve the implementation and understanding of tobacco harm reduction.[22]

A number of the scholarship winners appeared on panels at GFN2019.[3]

GFN's acceptance of funding from the tobacco-industry funded Foundation goes against World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation,[24] which urged governments and the public health community not to partner with the Foundation:

"…research and advocacy funded by tobacco companies and their front groups cannot be accepted at face value. When it comes to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World there are a number of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company's brand portfolio".

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Secretariat has also issued a strongly-worded statement against collaboration with the Foundation:[25]

"The Convention Secretariat regards this tobacco industry-funded initiative as a clear attempt to breach the WHO FCTC by interfering in public policy… There is extensive experience 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".

Tobacco Funding Through ISoNTech?

Image 1: ISoNTech floorplan 9 May 2018[26]

The GFN declares that it does not accept tobacco industry funding. In June 2019 the conference website states that it: “is funded by registration fees and does not receive any sponsorship from manufacturers, distributors or retailers of nicotine products including pharmaceutical, electronic cigarette and tobacco companies.”[2] However, since 2017 the GFN takes place “alongside” the International Symposium on Nicotine Technology (ISoNTech),[27] which is part-funded by tobacco companies. ISoNTech is a parallel event for the tobacco and nicotine industries to showcase its harm reduction products (e.g. e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and smokeless tobacco), and promote these products to GFN attendees who can attend ISoNTech for free.[28] Despite ISoNTech and GFN being presented as two separate events, they are both organised by KAC[29][30][27] and have shared a joint programme.[31] Even though ISoNTech 2018 took place on 14 June only, its website promised clients that “the exhibition stand will be displayed in the ISoNTech area throughout GFN 18” for which the main sessions took place on 15 and 16 June.[32] The GFN programme suggested that the foyer in which the ISoNTech exhibition stands were located would be used for coffee and lunch breaks as well as poster presentations, giving tobacco companies direct access to attendees.[31] That same close relationship continued in 2019. The web site for ISoNTech says: “Following the success of ISoNTech during GFN18, the organisers plan to offer similar opportunities alongside GFN19 to developers, manufacturers and distributors to demonstrate new products and discuss their design and development.”[33]

ISoNTech is part-funded through exhibition space packages. Image 1 shows the ISoNTech Floorplan as per 9 May 2018, and illustrates that the exhibition area was occupied by multinational tobacco corporations, notably PMI, BAT, JTI, and Altria.[32] The size and arrangement of the exhibition stands on the floorplan imply that each tobacco company paid for the £7000 ISoNTech Premium package. This premium packages offered the company a speaker slot on the main stage, a larger exhibition stand, and two registrations to GFN. Other companies with ISoNTech exhibition stands included RJ Reynolds and Swedish Match.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

TCRG Research


  1. GFN 2014, Archived main page, undated, accessed June 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 GFN website, About, undated, accessed June 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 GFN 2019, Programme, undated, accessed June 2019
  4. GFN website, Terms and Conditions, undated, accessed June 2019
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Global Forum on Nicotine, Presentations 2017, 2017, accessed February 2018
  6. IEA, Terry Barnes, undarted, accessed June 2019
  7. GFN website, Programme, undated, accessed June 2019
  8. Global Forum on Nicotine, Speakers 2018: Camacho, undated, accessed June 2018
  9. Global Forum on Nicotine, Speakers 2018: Haziza, undated, accessed June 2018
  10. M. Gilchrist, Heated Tobacco Technology: Science, Behavior and Avoiding Unintended Consequences, Philip Morris International, 16 June 2017, accessed February 2018
  11. T. Mc Grath, What is combustion and why is the absence of combustion important for heat not burn products, Philip Morris International, 16 June 2017, accessed February 2018
  12. Global Forum on Nicotine, Nicotine futures-the tobacco industry and public health,, published on 29 June 2017, accessed February 2018
  13. C. Kindstrand-Isaksson, Q: Borderline and novel products, markets and consumers, are regulations fit for purpose? A: No!, 17 June 2017, accessed February 2018
  14. Global Forum on Nicotine, Speakers 2018: Kleykamp, undated, accessed June 2018
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 GFN 2015 report [1], undated, accessed June 2019
  16. 16.0 16.1 Global Forum on Nicotine, Speakers 2014, undated, accessed February 2018
  17. Global Forum on Nicotine, GFN18 Programme Committee, 2018, accessed February 2018
  18. GFN Website, Programme Committee, undated, accessed June 2019
  19. Pinney Associates, Tobacco Harm Reduction, 2018, accessed June 2018
  20. Global Public Health Community, An open letter to the Director General and the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, Centre for Good Governance on Tobacco Control, 28 January 2019, accessed June 2019
  21. Attention Era, A Billion Dollar Foundation, undated, accessed May 2018
  22. 22.0 22.1 Global Forum on Nicotine, Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarships, 2018, accessed February 2018
  23. Knowledge-Action-Change, Scholarships, KAC website, undated, accessed 2019
  24. World Health Organization, WHO Statement on Philip Morris funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, 28 September 2017, accessed June 2019
  25. FCTC Secretariat, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat's statement on the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, 19 September 2017, accessed June 2019
  26. ISoNTech, Exhibition Packages, 9 May 2018, accessed June 2018
  27. 27.0 27.1 ISoNTech web site, home page, undated, accessed June 2019
  28. Global Forum on Nicotine, 2018 Welcome, undated, accessed June 2018
  29. Whois, Domain Information, last updated 8 June 2018, accessed June 2018
  30. ISoNTech, ISoNTech home, accessed June 2018
  31. 31.0 31.1 GFN, GFN + ISoNTech 2018 Programme, undated, accessed June 2018
  32. 32.0 32.1 ISoNTech, Exhibition Packages, accessed June 2018
  33. ISoNTech Website, Introduction, undated, accessed June 2019