WHO affirms commitment to public health, rejects partnership with PMI foundation

Bangkok, 2 February 2019: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) welcomes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) reassurance that it will not engage with the Philip Morris International (PMI)-funded Foundation for a Smoke-free World (FSFW).

Responding to statements by several member and non-member States, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reaffirmed WHO’s commitment to firewall its activities from the tobacco industry including FSFW. He reiterated WHO’s commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) especially on Article 5.3 (Protection of Public Health Policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry). He also urged governments to follow WHO’s lead to reject any partnership with the FSFW.

Last 29 January, SEATCA and more than 100 international public health organizations from around the world sent an open letter to the WHO Executive Board (EB) urging it to reject the partnership offered by FSFW. The open letter spearheaded by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) global industry watchdog also called on the EB to reinforce WHO’s 2017 notice to governments and the public health community to reject any affiliation with the FSFW because of the “number of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation, particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company’s brand portfolio.” FSFW was established in 2017 with PMI funding of US$ 80 million annually for 12 years.

“Despite its claims of independence, FSFW’s vision of a smoke-free world is fully aligned with PMI’s “smoke-free (not tobacco-free) future”. In other words, FSFW is a platform to legitimize and accelerate sales of PMI’s heated tobacco products, even as PMI continues to aggressively market cigarettes and to oppose evidence-based tobacco control measures,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.

Signatories to the STOP letter note that engaging with FSFW would present a direct threat to the FCTC, a global treaty that guides the implementation of evidence-based policies to reduce tobacco use. Collaborating with FSFW also would contradict WHO’s own warning about FSFW and the best-practice policies endorsed by the UN to protect its policies from tobacco industry interference.

“PMI has a long and well-documented history of using third parties to infiltrate health policy making,” said Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath and research lead for STOP. “No public health gain has ever been achieved by working with the tobacco industry, so this latest approach by a PMI-funded entity must be rejected. Support to express outrage against the PMI-funded FSFW continues to pour in.”

In November 2017, Vietnam was the first ASEAN country to announce its position on the FSFW when its Ministry of Health alerted all government ministries to the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health, highlighting the WHO recommendation to not cooperate with the foundation.

“Other governments should take similar action and reject any collaboration with the FSFW or any research findings it generates. Universities must also reject any funding from or pursuing work with the FSFW,” added Dr. Dorotheo.

 

Contact:
Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

Related Links:

 

About SEATCA
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.