Last October, two members of the House of Representatives were forced to suspend public consultations on vaping and heated tobacco products, after the Philippines FDA, was forced to admit that it had received a grant from the Union and Bloomberg Initiative.
“The Union co-manages the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use Grants Program, which awards funds to projects delivering high-impact tobacco control interventions in low- and middle-income countries,” said Rep. Estrellita Suansing, during a virtual consultations’ session, which took place on October 8th.
The fundings may have violated both Philippine and US laws
Moreover, concerns are being raised as to the extent that such grants or technical assistance are being offered with the intention of influencing the formulation of policy. Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA, Nancy Loucas, said that countries which direly need funds to implement effective public health programs are particularly vulnerable and often fall prey to grant-for-policy schemes. “LMICs should keep away from such grant-for-policy schemes which might compromise the rights of the consumers to choose better products for their health.”
Besides referring to the case in the Philippines, she highlighted that public health experts such as Dr. Roberto A. Sussman of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, have also been calling on the attention of consumers and concerned groups, to the overwhelming influence exerted by Bloomberg Philanthropies on nicotine policies in LMICs.
Why LMICs are easy targets
CAPHRA agreed with Dr. Sussman’s observation that among the structural reasons why Bloomberg’s efforts concentrate on LMICs, are their chronic lack of public health resources and personnel in health ministries “where all it needs for a policy to be enacted is to lobby and convince the head of government, or simply a sufficiently influential group of high ranking health officials.”
Sadly, consumers in LMICs would eventually pay for the cost of grant-for-policy schemes if authorities would allow the illegal practice to continue. “We encourage consumers to remind their governments to resist pressures from vested interest groups that are trying to influence local policy using money or grants especially in developing nations which would deprive consumers of their rights for better health,” said Loucas.