Frequently Asked Questions
Since our founding in September 2017, we've received and responded individually to a number of important questions. The FAQs below are designed to provide clarity for all interested parties on the most commonly asked questions regarding the Foundation's history, governance, focus, and position on issues of importance in tobacco control.
Why was the Foundation formed, and who leads it?
The Foundation was formed to help the world’s billion smokers quit and reduce their risks from smoking which remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death. The purpose of the Foundation is to improve global health by ending smoking in this generation. Our mission is also to address the consequences of the globally reduced demand for tobacco on smallholder tobacco farmers, and to help them transition to alternative crops and livelihoods.
The Foundation is led by President Dr. Derek Yach, a renowned global health expert and anti-smoking advocate for more than 30 years. Dr. Yach is a former Executive Director for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health at the World Health Organization (WHO). At WHO, he served as Cabinet Director, where he was deeply involved with the development of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC).
What is the Foundation’s relationship to Philip Morris International (PMI)?
The Foundation has a pledge agreement with PMI, stating that PMI is bound to provide the Foundation with funding for 12 years. As long as the Foundation continues to operate and spend money in line with its purpose, as attested to by the Foundation’s Board of Directors and independent external auditors hired by the board, the funding will continue. If for some reason the Foundation becomes inactive or changes its purpose, then PMI could withdraw from further funding.
The pledge agreement also places no restrictions on the Foundation’s activities, including activities that may be critical of the tobacco industry.
Why does it make sense to accept funding from PMI now?
The decision to accept funding from PMI to establish a foundation was an extremely difficult one. Dr. Yach and colleagues have spent much of their lives fighting the tobacco industry and protecting the public from the harms of smoking. We recognize – and Dr. Yach himself has documented – the troubled history of the industry (including PMI) in establishing “independent” research foundations to mislead the public about the harms of smoking and in acting to protect its ability to market an extremely harmful product.
However, three important issues have compelled us to move forward with this:
1. The opportunity from technological disruption.
In recent years, technological advances in software, devices, vaping and tobacco use have created the potential to improve the effectiveness of smoking cessation and reduce the harms associated with smoking. The population health impact could be profoundly positive if the opportunity were rapidly and fully explored.
2. Funding for cessation and harm reduction research is scarce.
The limited funding available for this work is concentrated in the US, UK and rest of Europe, with very little in the countries where most smokers actually live. This severely constrains the ability to evaluate and exploit the technological disruption described above.
3. We have been able to secure PMI funding while ensuring the Foundation’s independence.
The Foundation will diversify its funding sources, but this initial grant creates a sustainable, nearly $1 billion platform from which to begin supporting needed research and innovation. Our independence is further described in the next section.
How does the Foundation ensure its independence from PMI?
The Foundation's governance and management preclude any influence from PMI:
- The Board of Directors has no representation from PMI or the tobacco industry
- Board members have no ties to PMI or the tobacco industry
- Management and staff have no ties to PMI or the tobacco industry
Can PMI influence research or publication by the Foundation’s grantees?
No. PMI cannot influence research or publications by the Foundation’s grantees. Article IX of the Foundation’s bylaws provides for:
- An independent research agenda that does not take into account the potential impact of that research on the tobacco industry and is guided by experienced researchers, scientists, and policy experts (IX.A)
- A grant selection process with no influence from the tobacco industry (IX.C)
- Freedom for grant recipients to publish their findings, studies, and results and a requirement that they make their raw data available for secondary analyses and review (IX.F)
How is the Foundation different from other existing organizations and initiatives?
While a number of institutions have maintained a high level of dedication to tobacco control and to the implementation of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), there is still a gap in science, research, and technology that needs to be filled.
Global funding for research on smoking cessation and harm reduction, for example, is concentrated in the US and UK (with some important work underway in Europe). Other regions and countries, where progress has been slower and smoking-related impacts greater, often lack the capacity and resources to support research and effective tobacco control initiatives.
The Foundation will fill a massive gap in science and will take action in key regions by supporting middle- and lower-income countries and helping them build their capacity for research and effective interventions. In addition, the Foundation will seek to fill a critical gap in helping tobacco farmers in the developing world transition to alternative crops and livelihoods, as the demand for tobacco declines worldwide.
It should be noted that Dr. Yach led efforts with the Fogarty International Center (FIC) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to raise funding for related purposes 20 years ago. His experience will allow him to make further progress through the Foundation.
What is the Foundation doing to drive change in the cigarette business?
The Foundation aims to decrease the demand for cigarettes by:
- Supporting research to develop better quitting methods and to examine and validate reduced-harm alternatives to conventional smoking
- Developing solutions and interventions that are priced and designed to meet the needs of low- and middle-income countries
- Informing and supporting policies that help consumers transition more quickly (e.g., pricing and tax policies to favor quitting and switching)
- Supporting health technologies and/or new approaches to help smokers quit or switch to reduced-harm products (e.g., biomarkers to help insurers differentiate smokers from reduced-harm product users and adjust premiums accordingly)
How is the Foundation establishing its Health, Science, and Technology (HST) agenda?
The preliminary Health, Science, and Technology (HST) agenda was developed based on:
- Reviews of key recent publications, including by the WHO, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, Public Health England, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
- Literature reviews
- Scoping work
- Expert interviews
- Results of our own State of Smoking survey
The preliminary HST agenda was open for public input until September 15, 2018 and will be updated by November 2018. Further detail on the preliminary agenda can be accessed here.
How is the Foundation leveraging science- and market- based solutions for improving smallholder agriculture and livelihoods?
As the Foundation conducts its work with smallholder tobacco farmers and other key stakeholders in Africa and beyond, it will prioritize commercial and demand-driven business initiatives, agricultural science and technological innovations, and evidence-based policy strategies that will simultaneously—and independently—support improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers. We recognize the need for a strongly diversified economy that will stimulate new job opportunities and contribute to dynamic economic growth.
Our first priority is to work with smallholder tobacco farmers in Malawi because the country’s economy is the most dependent on tobacco leaf as a source of export earnings and GDP growth. If we support a model that can successfully identify credible market, technological, and policy solutions that will enable an agricultural transformation in Malawi, we can help transform the lives of those we serve. To be successful, such a model will not only rely on economic and scientific rigor but on the desire of smallholder farmers, their communities, the private sector, and national policy makers to drive the transformation.
To ensure that our efforts are well-informed and grounded in rigor, the Foundation will not only insist on a research component of much of its work in Malawi, but also seek to develop a global research agenda. The latter will aim to fill key knowledge gaps, such as (a) identifying new and emerging science and technology solutions, (b) learning from the experience of other countries on economic diversification and transformation, and (c) identifying the implications of any changing global markets for tobacco leaf on economic diversification and growth among the most affected countries. The global research agenda is expected to evolve over time based on feedback and consultations with academics, researchers, policy makers, farmers, and the general public.
For further details on our approach, please see Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) here.
How does the Foundation plan to accomplish its objectives?
We will work with other groups, institutions, researchers, and advocates committed to ending smoking to identify areas of need, support initiatives, and fund independent research to advance the science and evidence base related to smoking cessation, harm reduction, and tobacco control. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Helping to strengthen global research capacity to assess, identify, and share findings on best approaches to end smoking and reduce risk
- Determining risk perception and behavioral barriers to quitting smoking or adopting less harmful alternatives, and informing and strengthening global efforts in cessation, harm reduction, and tobacco control
- Assessing the relative effectiveness and risks of various smoking cessation and harm reduction interventions via independent, peer-reviewed research
- Recognizing, supporting, and helping extend the impact of existing or emerging initiatives that show the most promising approach in reducing death and harm to smokers
- Addressing the effects of a decline in global tobacco use on tobacco farmers in developing countries by exploring, assessing, and promoting strategies to transition farmers to other sustainable crops and livelihood
How is credibility and objectivity in grant funding and research ensured?
We will establish an independent technical/scientific advisory group that will provide oversight and review of our grant process and applications. In addition, we have staff who have conducted similar work for other major foundations and/or who have research backgrounds to further inform our efforts.
Program proposals are solicited directly or via requests for proposal (RFPs), after which we evaluate and have them evaluated by Grant Review Committees in our Health, Science & Technology (HST) and Agriculture & Livelihoods (A&L) departments.
To date, we have issued an initial public solicitation for scoping grant applications to help further define areas of research and the capacity and infrastructure needed to support large-scale research initiatives. Our intent is to approve a large number of these smaller grants, covering an array of areas of focus, from cessation to harm reduction and behavioral interventions to agriculture.
On March 19th, 2018 the Foundation released the findings of its first global 13-country State of Smoking Survey on smokers, ex-smokers, and never-smokers. The survey, explored a range of issues including their product use, the broader social and cultural contexts, and behaviors associated with smoking. In addition, we examined smokers’ intentions to quit, what their drivers to quit are, their use of alternative products, as well as their perceptions of the harms associated with alternative products relative to combustible cigarettes. Please access our 2018 State of Smoking Survey here.
In accordance with our transparency policy, we will share the topics and summaries of grant-funded results once they are available.
The Foundation will create an internal review panel to review innovative projects and research that the Foundation funds. It will be composed of experts in their fields who are knowledgeable of and open to technologies that disrupt the status quo. We plan to be fully transparent about all aspects of the review process.
How are decisions made about which programs to support and fund?
Priorities are set based upon major global and national reviews of research needs. These build on recent statements by the Cochrane Collaboration, the NASEM report and related documents, all complemented by extensive consultation with experts in the field. Any decision with regard to funding of programs will require independent board review.
Does the Foundation support a full array of tobacco control solutions?
Yes, we support all the tobacco control solutions proposed by the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). We focus on those elements that have been relatively under-funded and/or neglected (e.g., cessation and harm reduction and vulnerable populations). We plan to combine our innovative approaches with proven best practices in the areas of smoking cessation, harm reduction, behavior economics, policy, and taxation.
Does the Foundation support the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)?
Yes, unequivocally. Dr. Yach is a leader who contributed to the establishment of the FCTC. The Foundation is supportive of the progress that FCTC has helped to achieve worldwide.
What is the Foundation’s position on tobacco industry actions that block global efforts to implement FCTC?
The Foundation will continue to scrutinize actions of the tobacco industry, including those of PMI, whenever and wherever they act in opposition to efforts to reduce harm and deaths from smoking, in marketing cigarettes to attract new smokers (including youth), and/or in lobbying against efforts to curtail smoking via cigarette bans, taxation, and labeling.
Our funding agreement precludes PMI from stopping the Foundation from being critical of their actions. The pledge agreement also prevents PMI from mentioning or attempting to take advantage of its funding of the Foundation in its public relations or reputational activities.
In addition to the above, we will also develop the needed analytic ability to assess company activities in relation to tobacco control. In doing so, we will draw upon the experiences of the medicines and nutrition indices. Both indices rank companies in terms of objective measures that include those related to illegal or unacceptable lobbying, positive investments to reduce the risk of products, measures taken to address the needs of developing countries, and more.
In light of media reports and studies on the harm of youth vaping, what is the Foundation’s stance on addressing the recent increase in vaping among younger generations?
The Foundation does not support youth vaping or cigarette smoking on any level.
What measures are taken to ensure the Foundation’s activities and intentions are transparent?
To ensure that we are compliant with Foundation regulations and to develop a rigorous transparency policy, we consulted with a leading law firm, Baker Hostetler, for guidance and input.
We have, since the beginning, publicly stated our mission and intentions and asked to be held accountable to them as we conduct ourselves in pursuit of that mission. All of the policies, standards, and agreements governing our work are made available to the public on our website. These include our bylaws, certificate of incorporation, and funding agreement with PMI. Documents related to our legal, non-profit status, once approved as a US 501c3 organization can be accessed here.
We have published our founding documents online and summary reports of Board meetings. Further, we intend to post and make available:
- Requests for proposals (RFPs)
- Results of grant decisions and researchers’ data
- Our research strategy, which is being developed and which will take into account public input
- Future summary reports of Board and Advisory Committee meetings
- Annual report
Who are the Board of Directors members, how were they selected, and what are their roles?
We currently have seven initial Board members, with a plan to add more. You can view the Foundation’s Board of Directors, their biographies, and their Board Governance Policy here.
Board members cannot receive funds from the Foundation for their institutions, while they are serving on the Board. This would be a clear conflict of interest, as per the Foundation’s bylaws.
Board members were selected by Dr. Yach, in an independent manner, based on their skills, experiences, and backgrounds that would be useful to the Foundation to accomplish its mission. Any additional Board members would require approval from the current Board of Directors.
Board members are drawn from diverse backgrounds to provide balanced leadership to the Foundation. It should be noted that none of the Board members has ties to the tobacco industry, nor have they ever been employed by the tobacco industry.
It is within the Board’s power to terminate the employment of the president of the Foundation, Dr. Yach. The Foundation’s work plan can be changed at the Board’s discretion. The Board will advise on strategic direction.
Who are the staff members of the Foundation?
We have recruited talent from traditional public health circles (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Cancer Research UK, The Union), as well as those with deep tobacco regulatory experience (CTP – FDA). Our leadership can be found here.
We know that collaboration will be required among a diverse set of stakeholders within complex developing markets, so we have brought in deep operational experience from both humanitarian and commercial sectors. We are continuing to add staff members with diverse talents.