November 27, 2023
A research foundation originally set up by Philip Morris International (PMI) will no longer accept any funding from the nicotine industry as it seeks to win credibility with tobacco control advocates, its chief executive said.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World was set up in 2017 with support from PMI, which pledged to provide tens of millions of dollars every year for 12 years to keep it running.
PMI provided a final grant of $122.5 million (£97m) in September, equivalent to around three and a half years of funding based on the amount it pledged to the foundation annually between 2022 and 2029.
The foundation will now rebrand and find new funders from outside of the industry, Cliff Douglas said in an interview.
Douglas, a long-time tobacco control advocate who joined the foundation in October, said he wants to see it re-established as a credible actor in ending smoking.
“Any scepticism around our independence can be laid to rest,” he said.
Douglas pointed to a number of tobacco control advocates who have sounded positive about the foundation’s new direction. However, other groups remained sceptical about whether it can reset its image.
“Whether it’s true or not, [Douglas] will be seen as pursuing PMI’s agenda, not that of public health,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of UK health charity ASH, adding the foundation’s role was “irredeemably tainted” by its PMI funding.
Yolonda Richardson, president and chief executive of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said it was “ludicrous” for the foundation to claim independence after accepting a hefty payment from PMI.
Its stated aim still aligned with the company’s interests, she added.
The foundation says its mission is to end smoking including via research aimed at helping smokers quit or move to alternative products.
PMI said the split was mutual, and wished the foundation success.