An Open Letter on the Foundation’s Independence and Governance
This is an open letter sent by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World president Dr. Derek Yach, on January 9, 2018, to Prof. David B. Abrams et. al in response to their letter addressed to Dr. Yach and the Foundation on November 16, 2017, in regards to funding, governance and independence.
Prof. David B. Abrams
Mr. Clive D. Bates
Prof. Jean-Francois Etter
Prof. Lynn T. Kozlowski
Attorney General Thomas J. Miller
Mr. Raymond S. Niaura
Mr. David T. Sweanor
Thank you for your letter of November 16, 2017. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Inc. (the “Foundation”) appreciates your advice and your keen interest in the promise of the Foundation and its ability to accelerate an end to our current reality of one billion smokers worldwide. Below, we respond to each of your points in turn.
1. Independence – The governance documents of the Foundation mandate and legally require its independence from tobacco companies. The Foundation’s Certificate of Incorporation (the “Certificate”) sets forth its purpose as follows: “to support independent scientific research free from the influence of any commercial entity that may be affected by the research outcome.” The Certificate also describes the Foundation’s activities, including scrutinizing, commenting on, and informing the general public about the activities of the tobacco industry.
The Foundation’s First Amended and Restated Bylaws, which were adopted on September 19, 2017 (the “Bylaws”), provide explicitly that “[t]he goal of the Corporation is to promote and support significant scientific research that advances the field of tobacco harm reduction and reduces the public health burden of smoking-related diseases. The Corporation shall not take into account the potential impact of that research on the image of the tobacco industry or any other industry or commercial entity.” Further, the Foundation is agnostic about the role of specific technologies useful to end smoking. Research findings will determine which technologies we support or reject.
We also call your attention specifically to Article IX (Scientific Integrity) of the Bylaws, that adheres to the principles and criteria for accepting tobacco industry funding first articulated in the Cohen, et al. (2009) paper published in Tobacco Control. (on our website at www.smokefreeworld.org) As you note in your letter, the Cohen paper provides a valuable perspective in evaluating industry funding and the Foundation has put those principles and criteria into practice.
The governing documents of the Foundation are unequivocal: the Foundation is, and shall always be, an independent organization, operated to support research in the field of smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction, regardless of the impact on any commercial enterprise.
2. Irrevocable Funding – The Foundation and Philip Morris International (“PMI”) has committed to fund the Foundation for 12 years at $80 million each year so long as the Foundation continues to advance the Foundation’s mission focused on ending smoking and addressing the consequences of reduced tobacco use on tobacco farmers. This commitment will be forthcoming each year for 12 years pursuant to the terms of a formal, legally enforceable Pledge Agreement (attached).
3. Repeat Funding – Additional funding from PMI is not being considered.
4. Co-Funding – The Foundation will not seek funding from other tobacco companies during the 12-year period it receives funding from PMI.
5. Funding Diversity – The Foundation is seeking and would accept donations from other parties, subject to the same independent and transparent principles described above, and will consider and be open to diverse sources of funding on a project-by-project basis. At all times, the Foundation will operate independently, transparently, and free from the influence of any of its funders.
6. The Board of Directors – The Foundation has constituted an independent Board of Directors with diverse backgrounds and skills in health, agriculture and corporate governance. The Board is subject to a stringent conflicts of interest policy. No Board member can have ties to tobacco companies. The Directors will receive reimbursement for their expenses and a modest honorarium for their service. Names and bios of Directors will be available soon.
7. Board position for SRNT – The Foundation accepts the principle of having the research community engaged directly with the Foundation at the Board level. We would welcome a robust discussion with you to help discern: (a) who in the research community is best suited to serve on the Board or, alternatively, as a nonvoting Board observer; and (b) what the criteria should be for such person to serve as a Director or as a nonvoting Board observer?
8. External Scrutiny – The Foundation sees value in having rigorous external scrutiny from a third party. We would welcome exploring with you the logistics of implementing such an approach. For example, it would help to know: (a) your vision of acceptable funding sources which would support external review; (b) who you think would be the best party or parties to provide the scrutiny; and (c) to whom that third party would be accountable?
9. Grant System – The Foundation has established two grant review committees of the Board; one will focus on the Foundation’s public health goals and the other will focus on the Foundation’s agricultural objectives. The Foundation is hiring staff to spearhead the grant making process internally and is also considering external support from grant management professionals. The Foundation would be happy to update you as its grant making practices and procedures are more fully developed.
10. Fund Capabilities – The Foundation shares your enthusiasm for a “centres-of-excellence” approach to our grant making. We anticipate the bulk of our funding will support such centers. The Foundation also agrees that it will not rule out project funding nor short term support for a range of scoping exercises needed.
11. Transparency – The Foundation is, and will always be, a transparent organization committed to openness in all of its interactions with third parties. To this end, the Foundation provides its Certificate and Bylaws, approved Board minutes, and summaries of all grants and programs on its website. The Foundation intends to publish the findings of its grant recipients sharing the results of such research with the public even if such results are critical of, or as you
stated, “unwelcome to the tobacco industry.”
12. Public Relations – The Foundation’s Pledge Agreement with PMI is a public document provided on the Foundation’s website (and attached). That Agreement provides that PMI’s contribution cannot be used or portrayed as a commercial endorsement of any of its products.
On behalf of the Foundation, I want to thank you for your interest in the Foundation and its important mission. The suggestions you have made and the issues you have raised are closely allied with the obligations and spirit of the Foundation and the commitment of its Board and staff. We believe the Foundation operates, and shall always operate, in a manner consistent with the highest standards and purposes and always welcome the opportunity to explore with you how that can be best accomplished.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Derek Yach