The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was created in 2017 during an event funded by the tobacco industry. It is led by former tobacco control advocates who worked for UN agencies or health NGOs – but it is 100% funded by Philip Morris International (PMI) to the extent of 1US$ billion over 12 years. Its name, therefore, is highly misleading and makes the public less suspicious of the organisation and its fundamental purpose.
PMI has announced that it will phase out combustible cigarettes in the next 10-15 years and replace these with other nicotine delivery systems, such as Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs) and e-cigarettes. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World defends these moves as legitimately motivated by a concern for public health and presents these other systems as safer alternatives to combustible smoking. Yet the World Health Organization (WHO) has constantly warned against the harms of e-cigarettes and considers HTPs to be tobacco products.
Furthermore, in direct contradiction to its claim, PMI is still launching new combustible cigarette brands in low- and middle-income countries and actively promoting their use. André Calantzopoulos, CEO of PMI, claimed in 2019: ”Our combustible tobacco portfolio remains the foundation of our business,” thus demonstrating that these claims are baseless and not grounded in a real attempt to cease the production of combustible cigarettes, but rather to introduce a new line of products aimed at establishing a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.
“The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World makes a show of fostering dialogue on reducing the harms caused by cigarettes and producing scientific content to support its claims. In truth, it is a smokescreen organisation designed to offer the tobacco industry an image of corporate social responsibility. It is just the latest move in decades of manipulative tactics to make the public and policymakers believe that the tobacco industry really cares more about public health than its bottom line and is determined to end selling its harmful products.”
– Dr Cary Adams, CEO of UICC
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World claims to finance research projects to make the world smoke-free and that it is independent from PMI. However, the amount of funds allocated to research grants (US$6.46m) is less than the Foundation’s budget for communications (US$7.59m), highlighting how the Foundation appears more concerned with promoting itself than it does conducting research.
There is a fundamental divide between the tobacco industry and the goals of public health. The evidence-based, public health-based approach to reduce smoking incidence around the world is well known and can be achieved through the implementation by countries of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The Foundation of a Smoke-Free World is merely intended to mislead health organisations, policymakers and the general public.
"UICC will never engage with the tobacco industry, neither with organisations funded by the tobacco industry. We know that traditional cigarettes contribute to approximately eight million deaths worldwide every year, with cancer the leading cause, and the evidence that e-cigarettes are also harmful to health grows every day. UICC insists that all its members and networks reject any alliance, collaboration or funds originating from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and any of its employees."
– Dr Cary Adams, CEO of UICC