(Geneva, Switzerland): Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), a global tobacco industry watchdog, welcomes news that World Health Organization’s Executive Board (WHO EB) reaffirmed its position that it will not work with the Philip Morris International (PMI)-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW). STOP supports WHO’s call that governments and researchers should also reject overtures from FSFW.
Responding to statements from several countries and civil society organizations at the WHO EB session, Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus further reiterated WHO’s commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first global health treaty, and the provisions that oblige countries to protect tobacco control policies from tobacco companies and invested third parties.
“We applaud WHO and the countries such as Australia, Netherlands, Panama and Singapore, for standing firm on the evidence-based principle to not collaborate with FSFW, an organization entirely funded by PMI,” said Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath and research lead for STOP. “We urge researchers and governments currently being approached by FSFW to also recognize that FSFW has no place, either in public health science or at the policy table.”
Prior to WHO’s decision, more than 279 organizations and individuals in 50 countries signed an open letter put forward by STOP, urging WHO to reject a publicly advertised approach from the PMI-funded FSFW. In line with this letter, STOP prepared a statement that was delivered by representatives from the World Heart Federation, on behalf of STOP and other public health groups, at the WHO EB meeting in Geneva. The statement reflected broader concern about tobacco industry interference expressed by other member states and others at this session.
About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)
STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose tobacco industry strategies and tactics to undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control and Vital Strategies.
Please contact our STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.
Notes to editors:
Text of the letter sent to the WHO EB, including list of signatory organizations:
28th January 2019
To the Director General and Executive Board of the World Health Organization,
We write to you, as members of the global public health community, to express our grave concern at the attempt by the Philip Morris International-funded entity, Foundation for a Smoke Free World (FSFW), to pave the road for partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Giving any consideration to an organization that is entirely funded by the tobacco industry would fundamentally undermine the significant health and policy gains made to date on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) through the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It would specifically undermine WHO FCTC Article 5.3 which seeks to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry and on which much of the success of the treaty rests.
We therefore call on you to reject this approach, in the strongest terms, and reinforce WHO’s 2017 notice to governments and the public health community to reject any affiliation with FSFW because of the “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.”
Analysis of leaked PMI corporate affairs documents suggests that the establishment of the FSFW is consistent with the company’s corporate strategy.
The concern is that FSFW effectively operationalizes PMI’s corporate affairs strategy to further PMI’s business interests which include the promotion of its heated tobacco products, a market which PMI seeks to dominate. While PMI and its grantee claim a commitment to reducing harm; reports show that PMIs cigarettes continue to be heavily marketed in ways that attract children and undermine public health policy.
We are secure in the knowledge that the WHO does not engage with the tobacco industry or its proxies. We trust that you will respond to the PMI-funded FSFW in a manner consistent with the institution’s long-standing principles to protect its credibility and integrity bearing in mind that legitimizing FSFW through engagement would simply advance PMI’s agenda to the detriment of global health.
In the spirit of promoting partnerships to attain the SDGs, we hope that you will take this opportunity to establish WHO’s leadership in implementing the Model policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference.
The health of millions of people requires no less.