PMI will donate $80 million a year for the next 12 years to the brand new, Foundation for a Smoke Free World
Philip Morris International has been making headlines over the last couple years by making bold statements about the future of tobacco and their company. Earlier this year the managing director for Philip Morris in the UK, Peter Nixon, discussed how they wanted to incentivize people to switch to products with significant harm reduction. This coming after CEO Andre Calantzpoulos went on the record last July with BBC Radio 4 saying he would like to work with world governments in order to “phase out” traditional cigarettes. The latest move from PMI appears to show them putting their money where their mouth is, by pledging $1 billion to start an anti-smoking foundation. But some are worried there is more than meets the eye.
Foundation for a Smoke Free World
The foundation, which is set for launch in 2018, will fund research that focuses on the impact of smokeless products. They will also be interested in helping tobacco farmers cope with the decreased demand for their products, as well as tracking the progress of eliminating smoking altogether. It’s important to note that PMI will legally have no influence on what FSFW does with the money. As their press release states, “The Foundation will have an independent research agenda, ownership of its data, freedom to publish, and strict protections against conflict of interest.”
The foundation will be led by well known anti smoking expert, Derek Yach. Mr. Yach is a former cabinet director at the World Health Organization, where he was integral in passing the 2003 global tobacco treaty involving 180 countries. Last Wednesday he formally announced the new foundation in a speech at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum. In the 2016 documentary, Beyond The Clouds, Derek Yach gives an interview in which he implores us to never trust anyone in control of harmful products when they say they won’t harm us. But he acknowledges this does not mean we can’t talk to them and attempt to find a path forward together. Many are hopeful that Mr. Yach will bring about the necessary change in research for vaping, but some are still skeptical of PMI’s true intentions.
Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, Deborah Arnott, says the tobacco industry has a “terrible track record” when it comes to suppressing research that would reduce the number of smokers. She says, “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value.” Many skeptics are concerned that PMI’s new foundation will only conduct research on their own new iQOS products. Or worse by actively suppressing positive research on anything but Heat not Burn technology. Others are worried that Derek Yach is no friend to vaping, citing his 2016 comments supporting the devastating new FDA deeming rule. Some even go as far as to say that Yach will actively harm the strong and independent vaping industry, in favor of big tobacco smokeless ventures.
Even if nothing nefarious is going on behind the scenes, another major concern of vapers is the possible image problems resulting from taking grant money from PMI. Many are concerned that an effort by tobacco control groups to blacklist researchers taking FSFW money would result in influential organizations and universities avoiding the foundation altogether. After all, the public perception of vaping is already extremely poor, so few would feel pressure to resist the false claims of much more popular anti tobacco groups.
Only time will tell if the Foundation for a Smoke Free World will be good or bad for the vaping industry. If Derek Yach pushes their agenda away from traditional vaping in favor of Heat not Burn technology, this may prove to be another huge setback for traditional e-cigarettes PR. But if they instead choose to pour desperately needed funding into harm reduction studies, we may start to actually get enough peer reviewed evidence to end the debate on whether vaping should be treated the same as smoking in policy making.
What do you think about PMI’s new foundation? Are you skeptical of their motives? How can we tell what their true motives are? Let us know what you think in the comments.