Tobacco antis ‘gut-punched’

| September 20, 2017

The surprise announcement by the former head of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, Derek Yach, that he would head a newly-established organization called the ‘Foundation for a Smoke-free World’ to ‘accelerate the end of smoking’ was met with gut-punched disappointment by those who have worked for decades to achieve that goal, according to a BMJ blog by news editor, Marita Hefler.

The blog was headed, A ‘Frank Statement’ for the 21st Century?, and included the names of 14 people: Ruth E. Malone, Simon Chapman, Prakash C. Gupta, Rima Nakkash, Tih Ntiabang, Eduardo Bianco, Yussuf Saloojee, Prakit Vathesatogkit, Laurent Huber, Chris Bostic, Pascal Diethelm, Cynthia Callard, Neil Collishaw and Anna B. Gilmore.

‘Unmoved by a soft-focus video featuring Yach looking pensively off into the distance from a high-level balcony while smokers at ground level stubbed out Marlboros and discussed how hard it was to quit, leading tobacco control organizations were shocked to hear that the new organization was funded with a $1 billion, twelve-year commitment from tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI),’ the piece said.

‘PMI, which has been working for decades to rebrand itself as a “socially responsible” company while continuing to promote sales of its top-branded Marlboro cigarettes and oppose policies that would genuinely reduce their use, clearly believes this investment will further its “harm reduction” agenda, led by its new heat-not-burn product, IQOS. But don’t worry, the Foundation assures everyone that “PMI and the tobacco industry are precluded from having any influence over how the Foundation spends its funds or focuses its activities”.

‘Except that is what a broad range of industry front groups, sometimes headed by respected and even well-intentioned leaders, have been saying since the “Frank Statement” of 1954.

‘The long and sordid history of the industry’s funding of “research,” a major part of the mission of this new foundation, is replete with exactly this sort of blithe reassurance, as Yach himself pointed out in an earlier time.

‘In reality, nothing has changed. The “research” really isn’t the point anyway. The mere fact of having landed Yach is a major public relations coup for PMI that will be used to do more of what the industry always does: create doubt, contribute further to existing disputes within the global tobacco control movement, shore up its own competitive position, and go on pushing its cigarettes as long as it possibly can…’

The full story is at: http://blogs.bmj.com/tc/2017/09/19/a-frank-statement-for-the-21st-century/.

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Category: Breaking News, Harm reduction, People, Science

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