Yach Responds to Critics

Posted 13th November 2017 by Mawsley
The reaction from certain areas to Derek Yach setting up The Foundation for a Smoke Free World, or, moreover, obtaining funding from the tobacco industry, was predictable in its negativity. The same names and organisations rapidly crept out of the woodwork to slate the organisation – and yet support from the harm reduction community seems to be absent too.

Stanton Glantz declared that “Derek Yach's journey to the Dark Side is now complete”, and evidenced his opinion with double-think - detailing that Philip Morris [PMI] could have paid Yach far more if they were serious about it because, “that's what Derek would have said in response to this ruse back when he was a public health leader at WHO.”

The Foundation for a Smoke Free World was never going to find a flag-waving fan in Stanton Glantz. Likewise, any hope of support from The American Cancer Society was going to be in vain: “the PMI support is just a continuation of a decades-long effort to paint over tobacco's role in spreading death and misery around the globe.”

These comments followed the almost spontaneous response from the World Health Organisation (covered last month), and were added to by negative attacks from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and The Truth Initiative. Despite the presence of anti-harm reduction campaigners saying the same old thing, it’s hard not to take note of statements like: “The assertion that the goal of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is to eliminate smoking worldwide is disingenuous. This claim cannot be taken seriously as long as its primary funder, PMI, continues to manufacture, sell and market cigarettes and fight tobacco control efforts around the world.”

Derek Yach writes by way of response: "It is critical to understand the relative differences in exposures from e-cigarette vapour and cigarettes. Current evidence [shows] that the difference is substantial, favouring e-cigarettes. The largest studies of e-cigarettes and kids' uptake of cigarettes suggest fears about e-cigarettes being a gateway to cigarettes and that young people are using them instead of cigarettes are unfounded. That said, it will be important to further study e-cigarette use and youth to make sure that tools with the potential to help adults quit smoking aren't used by nonsmokers [sic] and youth."

Inevitably, Martin McKee used his position at The Lancet to respond to Yach and called the Foundation “not credible”. McKee writes: “PMI, like other tobacco companies, may well want to sell a range of products, but anybody who believes that they really do want to see a smoke-free world is, we argue, living in a fantasy world. And the public should be aware that Big Tobacco remains as it was, the main cause of premature death and disability from the world's most preventable pandemic.”

Is it possible those who oppose vaping might be correct in this instance? Is it possible such a close public association with Philip Morris could tarnish vaping?

An answer isn’t provided directly to these questions, but it is very telling that Michael Siegel has publically distanced himself. He writes in his blog: "Since Philip Morris International continues to aggressively market cigarettes internationally and to aggressively fight public health efforts to reduce tobacco use, this is just not a project that I can participate in as a public health practitioner."