Email Opposition to the FSFW

Posted 1st February 2019 by Dave Cross
An email is circulating public health circles calling for signatures to a letter expressing concern over the Foundation for a Smoke-free World’s (FSFW) letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The eight authors aim to block any moves for the FSFW to work in partnership with the WHO, placing blocks on the progress of reducing tobacco-related harm in the process.

The letter has been created by:

  • Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, Chair of Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), Thailand
  • Anna Gilmore, Professor of Public Health, University of Bath, UK
  • Gan Quan, Director, The Union, China Office
  • Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy, Advocacy and Communication, Vital Strategies, New York
  • Matt Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Joanna E. Cohen, Director, Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Bloomberg Professor of Disease Prevention
  • Katie Dain, Chief Executive Officer, NCD Alliance
  • Florence Berteletti, Director for Advocacy, World Heart Federation

The letter is framed as an attempt by a “Philip Morris International-funded entity” to “undermine the significant health and policy gains made to date”. In particular, they cite the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control’s (FCTC) Article 5.3: “to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry”.

It accuses the FSFW of holding “conflicts of interest”, “particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company’s brand portfolio”, because the FSFW exists to promote tobacco harm reduction and the products that will reduce it.

They attack Philip Morris International (PMI) and its business practices, and imply that the FSFW works to promote its products and brand image.

Harm reduction advocate Clive Bates is concerned about the letter. He asks people considering putting their names to it to contemplate on the following:

  1. Does the letter truthfully reflect the approach of the Foundation?
  2. Does the letter truthfully reflect the approach of PMI?
  3. What is the Foundation actually doing that you don’t like?
  4. Would you be criticising what are, in fact, positive developments?
  5. Are you opposed to public health benefits if tobacco companies make money as a result?
  6. Are you joining the enemies of innovation?
  7. Are you joining a mob?

Bates’ opinions ought to carry weight, as he and the FSFW’s CEO Derek Yach worked together to help bring about the WHO FCTC in 1999.

The WHO was attacked in 2016, in a statement that said: “The WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, it: positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking; fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking; misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders; discounts the fact that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit; does not recognise the place of some promotion of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to these less harmful products; fails to understand that the flavours in e-cigarettes are useful for people trying to stop smoking; mischaracterises the current e-cigarette market and appears to support very restrictive policies on e-cigarettes without including any good policy analysis. In addition, the WHO report does not acknowledge that significant restrictions on e-cigarettes could lead to unintended consequences, including increases in smoking.”

Little change has been seen in its stance since then, and harm reduction advocates are routinely evicted from witnessing the workings of the annual WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties. The FSFW has done nothing but promote tobacco harm reduction solutions and not supported PMI at any point.

If a billion of lives are to be to be saved it needs a paradigm shift in the global approach to the problem – and it starts with organisations like the WHO and FSFW working together, embracing the FCTC article committing the WHO to harm reduction.

 

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 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker