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Last month, one of the major tobacco companies and maker of Marlboro, Philip Morris International Inc (PMI), made yet another bold announcement saying that it will allocate $1 billion to set up a foundation that will fight smoking, and then dispense a further $80 million yearly towards the project for 12 years.

Naturally, many anti-smoking experts are sceptical that the aim of such a motion is nothing but an effort to ensure the visibility and success of Philip Morris’ harm reduction product, iQOS. “The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking,” said chief executive of London-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Deborah Arnott. “Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value.”

“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.”Professor Michael Siegel

Professor of public health Dr. Michael Siegel has been approached and asked to consult on this project. However on his blog he explained why he felt the need to decline. The professor pointed out that despite PMI’s several statements saying that they aim to fight smoking, the tobacco company is still heavily fighting any efforts by the authorities to implement anti-smoking strategies, such as plain packaging.

“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,” said Siegel. “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,” he added.

“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.”Professor Michael Siegel

Yach on the otherhand, believes in dialogue

On the other hand, Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization (WHO) official who was directly involved in the global tobacco treaty has accepted a leading position in the Foundation. When previously asked about his sentiments towards Big Tobacco, Yach had pointed out that in order to combat the current smoking epidemic, dialogue and collaboration are needed, rather than hostility.

Infact when last month the World Health Organization (WHO), condemned the foundation, saying that there is a conflict of interest in a tobacco firm funding such research, Yach said that the organization’s stance disappointed him. “I am deeply disappointed, therefore, by WHO’s complete mischaracterisation of the nature, structure and intent of the Foundation in its recent statements — and especially by its admonition to others not to work together,” said Yach.

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