Philip Morris International has announced a commitment of nearly $1 billion to launch a foundation dedicated to eliminating smoking worldwide.
The tobacco company, which has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market a device that heats rather than burns tobacco as a way of reducing the risk of smoking-related diseases, plans to contribute $80 million a year for twelve years beginning in 2018 to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Launched this week to fund research and support collaborative initiatives that accelerate progress in reducing harm and deaths from smoking worldwide, the foundation will be led by Derek Yach, the primary architect of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The foundation will focus its efforts on four areas — supporting research and building capacity through academic centers of excellence; building consensus around interventions that best reduce harm and deaths and increase smoking cessation; measuring and reporting on global progress toward harm reduction; and identifying alternative crops and livelihoods for tobacco farmers as global demand for tobacco declines, with a focus on smallholder farmers in developing countries.
"For decades, despite significant tobacco control initiatives, smoking has remained the world's number-one preventable cause of death," said Yach. "With more than one billion smokers, and one death every six seconds from smoking, there is an urgent need to accelerate progress and end this public health crisis. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World will bring needed resources, expertise, fresh thinking, and a collaborative spirit to form partnerships, initiate dialogue, conduct research, and take actions to more rapidly rid the world of smoking and its negative health impacts."
The launch of the foundation was met with skepticism from the London-based Action on Smoking and Health. "The tobacco industry has a terrible track record of funding research designed to support its efforts to block policies to cut smoking," said CEO Deborah Arnott in a statement to Bloomberg. "Tobacco industry claims can never be accepted at face value."