The agency named Stop (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products), aims to “aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry tactics and practices to undermine public health,” said Bloomberg Philanthropies. The agency’s public website will even contain global information and data on the activities of tobacco companies, in low- and middle-income countries where they are seeking to expand their markets, in order to make up for the declining smoking rates in the West.
A reaction to PMI’s Smoke-Free Foundation
This motion is thought to have been brought about as a reaction to the formation of the infamous Foundation for a Smoke-Free World funded by Big Tobacco company PMI. The latter has stated that it aims to fund research, analyse the impact of smoke-free alternatives, keep track of progress towards eliminating smoking and also find ways to help tobacco farmers deal with the reduced need of their crops.
“If these products have an impact, we need to have independent research to show that they should be given more support. So, our work will not be to simply push them out, but to do high quality research to look at the negative and positive sides.” he said. However Yach’s pleas for collaboration seem to have been falling on deaf ears.
Michael Bloomberg, currently a WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable disease himself, thinks that the foundation is nothing but “an effort by Philip Morris to confuse the public and to misinform them deliberately”. At a briefing, Bloomberg accused the foundation of promoting “fake science as well as fake news”, adding: “Unfortunately, I think you’ve seen this technique being used in our government to obfuscate and to confuse people.”
Renowned anti-smoking activist pushed to the side
The Stop agency was launched this week in Cape Town at the17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. This event is believed to be hosting about 3,000 anti-tobacco health and policy experts, and one would expect such a major conference to encourage dialogue amongst all interested parties. However, on the contrary and to the shock of many, Dr. Derek Yach, has been banned from this anti-tobacco conference because of his position at the Smoke-Free Foundation.
On the other hand, Derek Yach has been trying to explain that in order to combat the current smoking epidemic, dialogue and collaboration is needed, not hostility. “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,” he said.
Collaboration, not hostility, will help us end smoking
Another anti-smoking expert and Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics at University of Ottawa, David Sweanor, is on the same page as Yach. He is inviting everyone at the Tobacco or Health Conference to consider a different, and perhaps more effective approach to the usual “let’s wrestle tobacco companies to the ground” kind of reasoning.
Like Yach, Sweanor is suggesting working together with tobacco companies and making use of the resources they are offering, in order to truly understand the industry and help turn it into a sustainable one that helps smokers quit.
Read Further: The Guardian