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Lies, Hypocrisy and Bluster

Bloomberg funded organisation fuels attacks the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (again) with a catalogue of slurs and innuendo

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An employee of the magazine PR Week has been happy to trot out another unwarranted attack on the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), courtesy of the “tobacco industry watchdog”, Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP). STOP, synonymous with the University of Bath’s ‘Tobacco Tactics’, is part of a coordinated approach to undermine tobacco harm reduction (THR) through slur and innuendo rather than address the actual science.

Arvind Hickman is News Editor for PR Week, but his copy-paste of this latest Bloomberg-funded press release was copied out across the associated platforms to Campaign (UK), AdNews (Australia), Campaign (US), Campaign Asia, Campaign India, and (probably, but who knows or cares, even) Conference & Incentive Travel.

Bloomberg’s money works hard at STOP. Recently, one of the researchers at Bath contacted the Planet of the Vapes forum in order to gain assistance with “research”. Their presence on the forum lasted just a matter of hours until they requested their account be deleted following a simple question asking them if they were connected with Tobacco Tactics, STOP, or were being funded by one of Michael Bloomberg’s organisations.

The answer would have been almost definitely ‘yes’. In 2018, Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group received $20 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies [link].

The money has been spent on an attempt to interconnect everyone involved in promoting THR and alternative nicotine products, including an odd fascination with labelling many of them “libertarian”. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the THR advocacy community to discover that they represent all colours of the political spectrum – but then this doesn’t fit in with Bath’s agenda, although it does illustrate how facts and evidence take second place over creating an anti-vaping narrative.

The latest attack says that the World Health Organization is “concerned” by a “Big Tobacco-funded aggressive PR effort” during the current COVID-19 pandemic. They claim the FSFW is pulling strings in order to get its minions to conduct “research on tobacco users”.

At no point in the article does any recipient of Bloomberg cash argue against the science that nicotine is linked to a reduction in severe COVID symptoms. Instead, they quote WHO’s Dr Vinayak Prasad saying: “We are concerned that the tobacco industry and front groups such as the FSFW are taking advantage of the current pandemic. We are seeing foundation[s] funding surveys of tobacco users or funding universities for COVID-19 related research. There is an aggressive PR effort by the foundation and its communication teams around their activities in a number of countries.”

Quite how an organisation that was so slow to act initially to the pandemic can have the temerity to attack independent researchers working to find a cure is also not explained.

The journalist did approach FSFW for comment, and was told that the organisation funds research to promote THR. The foundation is clear in its purpose and has set up checks and balances to avoid conflict with its sole funder – but that isn’t enough to those ideologically opposed to nicotine use or have the role in the scheme of things undermined.

Hickman then quotes STOP saying, “the foundation is more interested in PR activity to position PMI's 'smoke-free world' positioning and helping smokers move to next-generation nicotine products, rather than scientific research”.

No evidence supports this statement.

PMI products don’t get promoted on the FSFW website or in literature – nor are they prioritised to receive positive research.

No, instead STOP says FSFW funds “VIDA News to ‘increase public awareness of the drivers of smoking harm and the availability of alternatives’ [and] the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) to ‘promote tobacco harm-reduction on the global stage’.”

And this is a bad thing because?

The accusation is left hanging, but what is the problem with VIDA News covering THR research in a balanced way? What is the issue with an umbrella organisation bringing together the voices of vapers, snus, and heat-not-burn users?

The problem is that it promotes the new paradigm, a shift from dictatorial “Quit our way or die” approaches to one that was driven from the ground up by consumers and free market innovation.

They’ve got a lot of spin they need putting out there and they’ve got a large organisation (Ruder Finn) to help them do that,” said Philip Chamberlain, a managing editor for Tobacco Tactics, according to Hickman.

Independent thinkers will be able to see that Chamberlain is a hypocrite. Bloomberg, through his organisations, propagates outright lies and champions the creation of pseudoscience. A billion lives are at risk – Bloomberg, STOP, and the University of Bath are standing in the way.


  • WHO concerned by Big Tobacco-funded 'aggressive PR effort' during pandemic”, Arvind Hickman – [link]
  • “Major funding announcement puts Bath TCRG at centre of new $20 million global industry watchdog” – [link]
  • Arvind Hickman – [link]
  • STOP – [link]
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies – [link]
  • Foundation for a Smoke-Free World – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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