The Foundation was upfront about its funding: “[We have] secured initial funding of approximately US$80 million annually over the next 12 years, beginning in 2018, from Philip Morris International. The Foundation is seeking and expects to receive funding from other sources as well.”
It also anticipated problems due to the source of this funding, and was at pains to point out that it had “constituted in its bylaws, an independent research agenda, independent governance, ownership of its data, freedom to publish, and protection against conflict of interest. Furthermore, strict rules of engagement will be put into place to ensure any interactions with the tobacco industry are fully transparent and publicly reported.”
This is not good enough for the World Health Organisation. It writes: “The UN General Assembly has recognised a ‘fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.’ ‘ WHO Member States have stated that ‘WHO does not engage with the tobacco industry or non-State actors that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry’, the Organization will therefore not engage with this new Foundation.”
Derek Yach has previously been very vocal in his belief that the world needs more collaboration with tobacco companies in order to address the future deaths of billions – not less. Also, Yach used to be head of tobacco control at the World Health Organisation.
The WHO statement said: “Policies such as tobacco taxes, graphic warning labels, comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and offering help to quit tobacco use have been proven to reduce demand for tobacco products. These policies focus not just on helping existing users to quit, but on preventing initiation. If Philip Morris International were truly committed to a smoke-free world, the company would support these policies.”
It continued: “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. WHO will not partner with the Foundation. Governments should not partner with the Foundation and the public health community should follow this lead.”
Yach said: “I am deeply disappointed, therefore, by the World Health Organisation’s complete mischaracterisation of the nature, structure and intent of the Foundation in its recent statements — and especially by its admonition to others not to work together."