Philip Morris promises $1bn to stub out tobacco smoking

Will Big Tobacco’s significant investment help the vaping industry survive and thrive?

4 min read

Philip Morris IQOS Stand

Philip Morris International (PMI), the multinational company, best known for Marlboro cigarettes, has pledged up to $1bn over the next 12 years to the newly created Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) that will fund scientific research designed to eliminate the use of smoked tobacco around the world.

The announcement was made at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum by the Foundations founder Dr. Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization (WHO) executive director who led the development of the world’s leading treaty on tobacco control, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

As stated in a press release, “The Foundation will build upon recent shifts in policy and science to fund research and support collaborative initiatives to accelerate progress in reducing harm and deaths from smoking worldwide.”

What's in it for Philip Morris?

Philip Morris Building

Large corporations don’t usually spend this amount of money just on public relations and a few controversial headlines. The FSFW states in the press release that it will have an independent research agenda, ownership of its data, freedom to publish, and strict protections against conflict of interest.

The most important part of the grants terms and bylaws state that the non-profit status of the Foundation precludes PMI or other tobacco industry representatives from involvement in Foundation governance, or from having any influence over the Foundation’s funding decisions, strategy, or activities.

Sounds impressive, but it’s difficult to believe that this level of investment is merely a way of getting favorable research on its reduced-risk nicotine products. Maybe it’s an honest initiative considering $1bn over 12 years is a drop in the ocean for a company with profits of $20bn a year.

“Our efforts are squarely focused on ultimately replacing cigarettes with smoke-free products, by offering the millions of men and women who continue to smoke a better alternative. We are standing at the cusp of a true revolution and look forward to the foundation’s objective review of our efforts and efforts of others.”

– André Calantzopoulos, CEO of Philip Morris International

What does this mean for Vaping?

Man Vaping on Dock

With this amount of investment secured and the potential to receive funding from other sources, The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is likely to be operated as a large corporation and hopefully as stated above independently.

Is the vaping industry likely to benefit? I’m not sure as its too early to tell. Will they focus their efforts and dollars disproportionately towards PMI reduced-harm products such as the IQOS heat-not-burn device or products from future tobacco industry funders of the foundation? It’s more than likely.

Numerous vaping issues, such as flavored e-liquids for adults don’t get the funding or attention that’s needed right now and valid research in those areas would be favorable to vaping.

The FSFW is also likely to face a torrent of misinformation from the tobacco control fanatics, due to this funding and this could damage the reputation of the FSFW funded scientists and put off recognized scientists to support the foundation.

If there is a collective effort to distrust, anyone who accepts money from the FSFW due to its links with Philip Morris, this could have an enormous impact on its credibility and ability to conduct research. Making the Foundation counterproductive in its aim to reduce smoking death by promoting low-risk nicotine products and therefore become somewhat of a joke.

Vaping research has grown into an eternal stream of weak studies hopelessly looking for risks, with very few considering the potential benefits.

Tobacco hater Stanton Getz from the University of California, San Francisco has already raised concerns on his blog declaring that “Derek Yach’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete.”

Let’s not be too quick to judge, if the FSFW can secure any first-class researchers then they are likely to show the tobacco controllers to be irrelevant, with a real source of funding with no strings attached for proper vaping research, which unfortunately doesn’t exist right now.

Currently, studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the FDA rewards researchers who decide to adjust their work helping the authorities to regulate and restrict low-risk products. Vaping research has grown into an eternal stream of weak studies hopelessly looking for risks, with very few considering the potential benefits.

Can the FSFW help, with careful studies on the items that can improve vaping make it safer and more accepted by more people. Is Big Tobacco’s significant investment going to help the vaping industry survive and thrive? We’ll have to wait and see.