Derek Yach’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete

Derek Yach will lead Philip Morris International’s new Foundation for a Smoke Free World, the latest in PM’s corporate social responsibility PR efforts.  It is also part of the company’s effort to promote its new heat-not-burn IQOS product.
 
Initial funding of $80 million a year (with a 12 year commitment) comes from Philip Morris, with the goal of engaging other nonprofits.  (This is about .1% of PMI’s revenues and 1% of its profits.)
 
Like all past industry front groups, the foundation claims “PMI and the tobacco industry are precluded from having any influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities.” 
 
If PMI was serious about achieving a smoke free world, it could stop aggressively lobbying against proper implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or stop selling Marlboros and other cigarettes.
 
That’s what Derek would have said in response to this ruse back when he was a public health leader at WHO.

Comments

Mike Siegel refuses to work with PMI foundation

Today Mike Siegel posted this to his blog in response to a request to be a consultant to the new PMI foundation:
 
"Unfortunately, I will not be able to consult or play any advisory role on this project. Since Philip Morris International (PMI) 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. PMI cannot be sincere in its intention to establish a smoke-free world when it continues to aggressively lobby against public health efforts to reduce tobacco use.”

Truth Initiative's reaction

Philip Morris Announcement to Spend Nearly $1 Billion to End Smoking Sounds Like Fake News
Industry and Influences Cessation

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Philip Morris International’s (PMI) recent announcement that it is establishing the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is an affront to public health, educators, researchers and advocates around the world who have been working tirelessly for decades to end the tobacco use epidemic. The fact that PMI claims to want to end smoking while, at the same time, being the world’s foremost seller of cigarettes, truly sounds like fake news.
 
Beginning in 2018, PMI plans to contribute $80 million annually over the next 12 years to the foundation. It claims these funds will be dedicated to accelerating global efforts to reduce deaths and harm from smoking, with the goal of eliminating smoking worldwide. If PMI really wanted to end cigarette use, it would immediately stop its relentless opposition to proven effective tobacco control efforts such as clean indoor air, higher taxation and plain package labeling.  It would simultaneously stop selling cigarettes. But, not surprisingly, that’s not what this announcement is about at all.  In fact, PMI has been completely silent on any companion announcement to reduce marketing support for its combustible products or to eliminate their opposition and legal challenges to tobacco control efforts worldwide. They have been silent about such efforts because there is no evidence that they exist.

 
History has proven, time and time again, that the tobacco industry only looks out for its best interest. In 1954, a Philip Morris vice president stated, “[I]f we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to our customers, we would stop business tomorrow.” In 1997, then-Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible said in a deposition that the company would halt production if presented with evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, stating he would “shut it down instantly.” Despite those statements, cigarettes continue to make up most of Philip Morris International’s business – a $75 billion a year enterprise that distributes enough cigarettes to supply five packs a year to every person on the planet.
 
The new Foundation for a Smoke-Free World raises the specter of the era when Philip Morris and other tobacco companies sought to establish industry-favorable research via the creation and funding of alleged independent research organizations, such as the “Council for Tobacco Research (CTR)” and the “Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR).”  Ultimately, the purpose of these organizations was to protect the industry from litigation threats and government regulation by distributing questionable science to distract from the irrefutable evidence of the death and disease caused by tobacco.  As a result, one of the conditions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement required the industry to dissolve these organizations.  The profit motives of the tobacco industry and public health are simply incompatible, and this is a Pandora’s Box that should remain closed.
 
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.  Truth Initiative® will continue to reveal the truth and expose the tactics of the tobacco industry and we strongly encourage all others who seek the end of the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., at the rate of 540,000 lives per year, to do the same.

 
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WHO FCTC Secretariat reaction

The Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) notes the launch of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, led by a former official at the World Health Organization [Derek Yach]. The Convention Secretariat regards this tobacco industry-funded initiative as a naked attempt to breach the treaty by interfering in public policy. It is a deeply alarming development aimed at damaging WHO FCTC implementation, and the Secretariat must therefore alert countries to its potentially harmful impact, particularly through contentious research programmes. The WHO FCTC is the world’s only tobacco control evidence based treaty and has been commended by global leaders as providing the primary roadmap to a tobacco-free world. It has 181 Parties, representing 180 States and the European Union, and is supported by numerous nongovernmental organizations.

PMI did this before

Ruth Malone and other global tobacco control leaders just published an excellent analysis of new PMI foundation on the Tobacco Control blog.
 
For people who don’t know, the “Frank Statement” was the 1954 advertisement that launched the tobacco companies’ decades long conspiracy to defraud the public and public policymakers.  In it the companies announced that “the health of our customers is our paramount concern” and announced the creation of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (later splint into the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute), an “independent” scientific organization to get to the bottom of the “smoking and health controversy.”
 
Another excellent resource for understanding what PMI is doing is the paper by Ruth Malone and colleagues on Philip Morris’ Project Sunrise, which can be read for free here.
 
Legitimate scientists and organizations need to recognize this parallel and stay away from the new Foundation for a Smoke-free World, which is just the TIRC painted green.
 
A “Frank Statement” for the 21st Century?
 
19 Sep, 17 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor
 
Ruth E. Malone, Simon Chapman, Prakash C. Gupta, Rima Nakkash, Tih Ntiabang, Eduardo Bianco, Yussuf Saloojee, Prakit Vathesatogkit, Laurent Huber, Chris Bostic, Pascal Diethelm, Cynthia Callard, Neil Collishaw, Anna Gilmore
 
The surprise announcement by the former head of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, Derek Yach, that he would head a newly-established organization called the “Foundation for a Smoke-free World” to “accelerate the end of smoking” was met with gut-punched disappointment by those who have worked for decades to achieve that goal. Unmoved by a soft-focus video featuring Yach looking pensively off into the distance from a high-level balcony while smokers at ground level stubbed out Marlboros and discussed how hard it was to quit, leading tobacco control organizations were shocked to hear that the new organization was funded with a $1 billion, twelve-year commitment from tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI). PMI, which has been working for decades to rebrand itself as a “socially responsible” company while continuing to promote sales of its top-branded Marlboro cigarettes and oppose policies that would genuinely reduce their use, clearly believes this investment will further its “harm reduction” agenda, led by its new heat-not-burn product, IQOS. But don’t worry, the Foundation assures everyone that “PMI and the tobacco industry are precluded from having any influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities.”
 
Except that is what a broad range of industry front groups, sometimes headed by respected and even well-intentioned leaders, have been saying since the “Frank Statement” of  1954. The long and sordid history of the industry’s funding of “research,” a major part of the mission of this new foundation, is replete with exactly this sort of blithe reassurance, as Yach himself pointed out in an earlier time. In reality, nothing has changed. The “research” really isn’t the point anyway. The mere fact of having landed Yach is a major public relations coup for PMI that will be used to do more of what the industry always does: create doubt, contribute further to existing disputes within the global tobacco control movement, shore up its own competitive position, and go on pushing its cigarettes as long as it possibly can.
 
In the video, Yach invites “everyone” to join the “movement” this new organization is starting – implicitly dismissing the past 40 years of tobacco control activism and advocacy and 60 years of tobacco industry lies and duplicity. Leaders of active existing civil society coalitions like the Framework Convention Alliance and the Noncommunicable Disease Alliance were blindsided. Contrary to the video’s claim, there is no shortage of “fresh thinking” in the already-vibrant, already-existing global movement to end the tobacco epidemic. There are many great “endgame”-furthering ideas now being actively debated, studied, and tried out: the primary obstacle to implementing them is the tobacco industry.
 
PMI  hasn’t stopped opposing the policies that would reduce tobacco use, has it? No: recently leaked documents  show that PMI continues to actively oppose any policy that could genuinely reduce tobacco use. Countries around the world identify the tobacco industry as the single biggest barrier to progress in implementing such tobacco control policies. This “new” initiative is just more of the same lipstick on the industry pig, but in a way it’s far worse this time: by using a formerly high profile WHO leader as a spokesperson, PMI can also accelerate its longstanding ambition to splinter the tobacco control movement.
 
It’s also not true, as the video suggests, that tobacco control efforts have “plateaued.” Cigarette consumption is declining and since 2003, more than 180 countries have become parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), committing themselves to implement effective policy measures and building public support for ending the epidemic. PMI knows this, hence its ongoing, covert and overt efforts to stymie the FCTC. For example, at the last Conference of the Parties, the meetings where implementation of the treaty is discussed, tobacco farmers organized by PMI demonstrated outside the venue and PMI representatives met secretly with delegates to the meeting.
 
The company hasn’t announced it is going to stop promoting cigarettes to kids in Africa and Asia, has it? No: in fact, it’s developing “stronger” products for some markets, and  continuing to aggressively promote Marlboro cigarettes to the young through campaigns like “Be Marlboro”(see also here and here). Despite decades of developing and then abandoning so-called “reduced harm” products, cigarettes remain PMI’s biggest moneymaker, dwarfing anything else. Only the profoundly naïve will believe that PMI is not solely promoting its self-interest in supporting this new “foundation”.
 
In fact, the announcement came the day after a huge win for tobacco control: the exclusion of  tobacco companies (as well as makers of cluster bombs and some other unsavory actors) from membership in the United Nations Global Compact, due to their  incompatibility with responsible business principles. Tobacco control leaders across the globe are convincing governments to protect health policymaking from tobacco industry influence, in line with Article 5.3 of the FCTC. PMI’s response is a new industry sponsored entity, eager to work with governments. From its inception, this organization will constitute a challenge for Article 5.3 implementation.
 
The timing of the announcement was interesting in another way: just the day before, a new global health initiative led by former US Centers for Disease Control head Tom Frieden was announced, with $225 million in funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While this initiative does not focus solely on tobacco, these funders know how much tobacco contributes to disease and death worldwide. They are also funders who have unequivocally taken positions supporting the strong policy measures that work.
 
What is required to end smoking isn’t helping the world’s leading cigarette manufacturer in its ongoing image makeover while it continues to try to derail the significant public health progress made to date. What is required is leaders who have the humility to work with the movement and policymakers with the backbones of steel needed to stand up to the industry to enact and implement strong tobacco control measures, including high taxes, smokefree laws, effective media campaigns to denormalize both smoking and tobacco companies, and marketing, packaging and retailing regulations to make these deadly products less ubiquitous. The global movement public health activists built over decades of toiling in the trenches must stand together and not allow PMI to buy more time by executing a 21st century version of the  “Frank Statement.”
 
The authors would like to thank Elizabeth Smith and Patricia McDaniel for their input to this article. 
 
This blog appears at http://blogs.bmj.com/tc/2017/09/19/a-frank-statement-for-the-21st-century/

ACS reaction

American Cancer Society Statement on Philip Morris International Support of New Effort
 
Effort "a new twist out of the tobacco industry’s deadly playbook"
 
Below is a statement from the American Cancer Society in response to news that Philip Morris International (PMI) will fund a new effort called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
"This attempt by Philip Morris International to paint itself as a public health partner is manipulative and dangerous. It is a new twist out of the tobacco industry’s deadly playbook, but nobody should be fooled. It’s a continuation of a decades-long effort to paint over tobacco’s role in spreading death and misery around the globe.
"Their pledged support of $80 million per year over 12 years may sound sizable, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the health costs of tobacco. In fact, it is a tiny fraction of the $300 billion in annual health and related costs due to tobacco in the United States.
"American Cancer Society policy prohibits partnering with any research or public health effort that takes tobacco industry support. It is unethical to take money earned off the top cause of preventable deaths in the world.
"If Philip Morris International is serious about ending the epidemic of smoking-caused illness, it has the power to do it: Stop selling cigarettes. Stop spending billions to market cigarettes. Stop suing governments around the world. And stop fighting every meaningful, evidence-based tobacco control effort."

TFK's reaction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2017
CONTACT:    Becky Wexler, 202-296-5469
 
If Philip Morris Is Serious About a “Smoke-Free World,” It Should Stop Marketing Cigarettes, Fighting Efforts to Reduce Smoking
 
Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Philip Morris International – the world’s largest non-governmental cigarette manufacturer – has announced that it is establishing a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, with funding of $80 million per year over the next 12 years.
 
Philip Morris has a long history of deceiving the public and doing whatever it takes to sell cigarettes. This is not the first time Philip Morris has announced that it is funding “independent” research, nor is it the first time it has claimed to support “independent” researchers. Each of its past efforts have been nothing more than a smokescreen to divert attention from its marketing practices, the harm its products cause and the strong scientific consensus that already existed – both about the harm of its products and the scientifically proven ways to reduce tobacco use.  There is no reason to believe that this announcement is any different.
 
Today, we know how to reduce tobacco use. The scientific evidence is strong and conclusive.  The problem is that companies like Philip Morris continue to oppose the adoption of these policies and programs.
 
Philip Morris’ claimed commitment to a “smoke-free world” cannot be taken seriously so long as it continues to aggressively market cigarettes and fight proven policies to reduce smoking and save lives around the world. Until Philip Morris ceases these harmful activities, its claims should be seen as yet another public relations stunt aimed at repairing the company’s image and not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products. The amount Philip Morris is spending on its new foundation is a drop in the bucket compared to the $75 billion in revenues and over $17 billion in profits the company reported in 2016, most of it from selling cigarettes.
 
If Philip Morris is truly committed to a smoke-free future, it should immediately take two steps: 1) Actively support the policies to reduce cigarette smoking that are endorsed by the public health community and an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC); and 2) set an example for the tobacco industry by stopping all marketing of cigarettes.
 
Philip Morris International’s actions show it remains a major cause of the tobacco epidemic, not a part of the solution:
 
There is a global consensus about how to reduce tobacco use. The problem is not a lack of evidence requiring research, it is the fact that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies continue to fight strong policies proven to reduce tobacco use around the world. Philip Morris continues to lobby against effective measures called for by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, such as higher tobacco taxes, graphic health warnings and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. An investigative report published by Reuters in July revealed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the FCTC, depicting “a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.” In recent years, Philip Morris has also filed numerous legal challenges to strong tobacco control laws adopted by Australia, Uruguay and other countries. It is the height of hypocrisy for Philip Morris to proclaim publicly that it is helping to solve the tobacco problem while it wages all-out campaigns against efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives.
 
Philip Morris continues to aggressively market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to kids and much of its targeting low- and middle-income countries that can least afford the burden of tobacco-related death and disease. In a recent example, Philip Morris launched a global marketing campaign for its best-selling Marlboro cigarettes, called “Be Marlboro,” that uses themes and images that appeal to youth. The campaign, which has been rolled out in over 60 countries, features young people partying, falling in love, playing music and engaging in risky behavior. In many countries, Philip Morris and its subsidiaries have introduced flavored cigarettes that appeal to youth, conducted aggressive marketing near elementary schools, sponsored race cars and concerts, and engaged in other youth-oriented marketing.
 
This isn’t the first time Philip Morris has stated a commitment to funding research with the goal of reducing the death and disease caused by cigarettes, but every prior announcement was nothing more than a smokescreen to enable it to continue business as usual. In 1954, a Philip Morris vice president stated, “[I]f we had any thought or knowledge that in any way we were selling a product harmful to our customers, we would stop business tomorrow.” In 1997, Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible said in a deposition that the company would halt production if presented with evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, stating he would “shut it down instantly.” Yet today, cigarettes make up almost all of Philip Morris International’s business and profits.
Cigarette smoking kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year and is projected to kill 1 billion people this century. To end this terrible epidemic, we need strong action by governments to reduce tobacco use, not empty promises from tobacco companies.