INDIANAPOLIS – The Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI will refuse to accept research money from a new anti-smoking group funded by Philip Morris International, the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company.
Paul K. Halverson, founding dean of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, signed a statement, along with the deans of 16 other public health schools in the U.S. and Canada, rejecting the funds from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
The World Health Organization and other organizations that support smoking prevention and tobacco-control efforts have also pledged not to work with the foundation.
“This position is a result of the foundation’s close association with an industry and a company whose products have killed millions of people around the world,” the deans said in their statement.
It was announced last September that Philip Morris International would contribute nearly $1 billion to the foundation, whose website says the group’s mission is to accelerate global efforts to reduce health impacts and deaths from smoking, with the goal of ultimately eliminating smoking worldwide.
The deans’ statement says, “It is imperative that public health regulation of nicotine products is based upon strong scientific evidence and astute judgment. Success in saving millions of lives will depend on research and policy development untainted by the interests of the tobacco industry.”
Halverson said that doesn’t appear to be the case. “Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Indiana, and over 11,000 Hoosiers lose their lives each year because they smoke,” he said. “In Indiana alone, over $280 million is spent each year on marketing for tobacco products. We cannot accept research money from an industry that is working in fundamental contradiction to the public’s health.”
“The foundation is tied too closely to the tobacco industry and Philip Morris International,” the deans’ letter said. “Both the tobacco industry and Philip Morris International have a long history of funding ‘research’ in ways meant to purposely confuse the public and advance their own interests.”
The deans did leave open the possibility of reconsidering their position depending on the answers to certain questions, including how the foundation’s research agenda is established, whether prevention of nicotine addiction and tobacco use is considered, and whether there is an impermeable firewall between Philip Morris International and the foundation.