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Researchers from STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog of which The Union is a partner, have published an analysis of a 2018 tax return of the Philip Morris-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), shedding light on the organisation’s funding activities.

The FSFW was set up in September 2017 as a scientific organisation aiming to “accelerate an end to smoking”, with a pledged amount of US$80 million over twelve years from Philip Morris International (PMI). Yet the analysis of the tax return, published in The Lancet on 6 June 2019, shows that the FSFW spent just US$6.46 million on ‘grants and contributions’ in 2018, compared with US$7.6 million spent on ’communications’ in the same year, the majority of which was paid to public relations companies.

The tax return also demonstrates that a further US$7.03 million was spent on staffing, leaving US$47.45 million unspent. With only a further $19.2 million of grant funding identified as approved for future payment, STOP researchers concluded that the FSFW appears to be struggling to fund scientific research using the money it has received from the tobacco industry.

Despite the millions spent on public relations, academic analysis shows that media coverage of the organisation has been largely negative. In the FSFW’s first six months of existence, only twenty percent of news articles framed it in a positive light. Press over that time primarily framed the FSFW’s mission and vision with “doubt, scepticism, and disapproval.”

The FSFW is still funded solely by PMI a year after its inception, although the organisation claimed that it would seek funding from other sources. Two high profile funders, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have publicly rejected the FSFW, and it seems that other funders are following suit. In the analysis published in The Lancet, STOP researchers reinforce the need to follow the so far successful calls made by the World Health Organization and the public health community to reject collaboration with the FSFW.

STOP has released a brief which summarises evidence to support the growing consensus that the FSFW is essentially working as a front group for PMI; serving as a “key public relations function” for the tobacco giant, rather than an independent scientific organisation working towards tobacco control.

About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose tobacco industry strategies and tactics to undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control and Vital Strategies.

 

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