Researchers spurn funding from Big Tobacco-backed “smoke free” group

Medical politics

5 Dec 2018

Leading Australian researchers have stated they will not accept any funding or support from the tobacco industry funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

This follows similar statements from Australian and international public health institutions, including the World Health Organisation.

The Foundation is funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

In an Editorial in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Professor David Thomas the Head of Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Diseases Division at Menzies School of Health Research says the tobacco industry continues to promote and market cigarettes and to actively undermine and oppose evidence-based policies to reduce smoking.

“We are not convinced that the Foundation is independent of the tobacco industry. Its current activities are consistent with the tobacco industry’s commercial interests, not concerns for public health,” writes Professor Thomas.

All of the organisations employing the authors of the Editorial (see below) have policies against accepting tobacco industry funding.

The Foundation’s approach to ending smoking focuses heavily on promoting alternative products such as e-cigarettes but demonstrates no commitment to reducing sales of burnt cigarettes.

The authors of the Editorial hold a range of views on whether e-cigarettes will support or undermine current evidence-based efforts to reduce smoking and its harms, but all agree that “the tobacco industry is the problem, not the solution”.

Australia has been successful in reducing smoking over the last 40 years, but much more needs to be done in some groups where smoking prevalence remains high, such as among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  The Commonwealth and state governments and NGOs have a strong record of independent funding of world-class tobacco control research in Australia.

“We will not undermine the credibility of Australian tobacco control research by accepting funding from, or working with, the tobacco industry funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World”, Professor Thomas said.

The editorial authors include researchers from:

  • Tobacco Control Research Program & Wellbeing & Preventable Chronic Diseases Division, Menzies School of Health Research, NT;
  • Faculty of Health & Medicine, University of Newcastle, NSW;
  • University of Canberra; 
  • Telethon Kids Institute, University of WA;
  • Perth Children’s Hospital;
  • Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, Victoria;
  • School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW;
  • Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, WA;
  • University of Melbourne, Victoria;
  • School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia;
  • Prevention Research Collaboration, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW;
  • Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, NSW;
  • National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, ACT;
  • Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW;
  • Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria.

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