WHO says that the Philip Morris International backed, Foundation For A Smoke-Free World has glaring conflicts of interest, making it extremely problematic to take money from them.
Philip Morris International pledged 1 billion dollars earlier this month to help set up a new foundation fighting the global smoking epidemic through research on alternatives like e-cigarettes. The move met with many types of reactions. Some were praising it as necessary, and others panned it as either hiding real motives or inevitably creating a precarious situation for those partnering with the foundation. The latter may already be coming true, as the WHO announced this week that they would not work with the Foundation For A Smoke-Free World. They also encouraged other public health agencies to do the same, boycotting the new charity. They reason that with conflicts of interest, it’s impossible for research they funded to be credible. As a result, a foundation that wants to provide desperately needed funding for e-cigarette research has been blacklisted, and its future is in serious jeopardy.
Foundation For A Smoke-Free World Response
Dr. Derek Yach is the first president of FSFW. Interestingly, he formerly worked for the WHO as a cabinet director, where he was integral in passing the 2003 global tobacco treaty. In response to the WHO declaration, Dr. Yach pointed out that to fight the smoking epidemic we must work together to find an answer, not predetermine that you’re going to disagree. He said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the WHO’s announcement, calling it a misleading assault on their nature and intentions. He even pointed out that significant claims of their release were false, as FSFW regulations prevent PMI from having any input whatsoever on what research is funded and published. As a non-profit charity, the tobacco giant will have no say in what peer-reviewed research is done by the foundation.
Other than the apparent image problem created by the WHO blacklisting them, many are skeptical of whether or not the FSFW would only do studies on PMI’s new smoke-free alternative iQOS. Others are worried that Derek Yach isn’t a friend to vaping at all, citing his support of the controversial FDA deeming rule. Some even claim he will be actively working against anything that isn’t PMI’s latest tech. A move which would further crush the independent vape industry, already facing bans and taxes.
Effect On Vaping
As mentioned, PMI pledged to donate 1 billion dollars to start an anti-smoking charity. This sort of move is desperately needed for the vaping industry, as not nearly enough money is being put into researching the specific effects of vaping as opposed to smoking. Most of what is examined focuses on cigarette smoking, only looking to vaping for an alternative data source. This mindset feeds into the general public’s false understanding of vaping; That it’s equatable to smoking. It may come to pass that the FSFW ends up only researching iQOS and other big tobacco alternatives. However, it’s impulsive to indict them before they’ve even launched. But the WHO’s announcement has made it much less likely that prominent researchers will accept money to study smoke-free alternatives. If this does indeed happen, the already uphill battle of changing public perception will become infinitely harder. In fact announcements like this reinforce the idea that smoking and vaping are somehow the same, actively moving us in the wrong direction.
The more that we normalize the idea that smoking and vaping are the same, the more people who don’t understand that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. So smokers could be forgiven for not seeing the point in switching from one thing they think is killing them, to another product that, as they understand it, also would kill them. But this is simply not the case. The somber truth is the WHO and similar health organization’s paint a picture that vaping is dangerous. By doing this, they are actively leading millions of people away from a path proven to help more than half of daily users quit.
Do you think that The Foundation For A Smoke-Free World should be trusted? Do you believe that blacklisting a charity will hurt vaping? How important is it that vaping gets more research funding? Let us know what you think in the comments.