Public health schools say “No way” to tobacco dollars

Tobacco giant Philip Morris says it wants to give up cigarettes. The Marlboro cigarette maker is so serious, it’s putting $1 billion toward research for a smoke-free world.

But public health universities in the U.S. and Canada aren’t buying it.

On Thursday, deans from 17 public health universities pledged they would not accept any funding from the Philip Morris-backed nonprofit, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

The announcement comes after the World Health Organization and other organizations that promote smoking prevention vowed not to work with the foundation.

“Our schools of public health consider funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World to be equivalent to funding from the tobacco industry and, as a result, we are not collaborating with the Foundation,” the deans wrote.

“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, aggressively market cigarettes globally, including to children, and persist in their relentless opposition to evidence-based tobacco control interventions.,” the letter said.

If Philip Morris really wants to establish a smoke-free world, the deans said, they would stop making cigarettes.

“The idea of taking money that’s from the tobacco industry is just antithetical to everything we do,” said Karen Emmons, dean for academic affairs at Harvard’s public health school, in an Associated Press story.

The foundation said it will pay for research that helps smokers quit, helps tobacco farmers find other livelihoods and develops “reduced-risk” alternatives to traditional cigarettes, according to the AP story.

Philip Morris is already selling such alternatives.

“Millions have already given up smoking and switched to our new products, and this is just the beginning,” the company touts on its website. “We’re investing to make these products the Philip Morris icons of the future.”

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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