The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent non-profit organisation, is headed by former World Health Organisation tobacco control chief Derek Yach and supported by leading harm reduction advocates like Professor Marewa Glover. Initial funding totalling $80 million per year for the next twelve years has come from PMI, which seems to be what’s sent public health zealots into a flat spin. Although the foundation’s by-laws make clear that it’s free to spend the money without interference or oversight by donors, the idea of industry funding for a harm reduction organisation has triggered prohibitionists on a huge scale.
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A hysterical outburst by UCSF’s Stanton Glantz, entitled Derek Yach’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete, accused the foundation of being a “PR effort” and “industry front group”. An equally over-excited blog post on the British Medical Journal’s website repeated the “front group” smear, and accused Yach of “dismissing 40 years of tobacco control activism”.
The BMJ post’s authors include Anna Gilmore (a British professor who has been implicated in using her seat on a funding committee to allocate taxpayer funds to herself), Ruth Malone from UCSF’s School of Nursing and Australian pensioner Simon Chapman. Among their many complaints is that the tobacco control industry is “already vibrant” and has “fresh ideas”. However the foundation’s launch video, produced by A Billion Lives director Aaron Biebert, points out that current strategies based on restrictions and punishing smokers have run out of steam – and the tobacco control establishment has run out of ideas.