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Public health groups call on Knowledge-Action-Change to Drop Out of the 7th International City Health Conference in Odessa

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12 September 2018

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, NGO “Life,” the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Ukraine and the Ukrainian Center for Tobacco Control urge the organizers and the speakers of the 7 th International City Health Conference – taking place in Odessa, September 13 to 14, 2018 – to disclose all sources of funding of the conference and to determine whether it is appropriate, given the event‟s focus on health, to invite representatives of organizations that have strong ties to the tobacco industry.
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We have discovered that the Knowledge-Action-Change (KAC), 1 which is co-organizing the 7 th International City Health Conference, receives funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-free World (Foundation), an organization entirely funded by international tobacco giant Philip Morris International.2 Globally reputed organizations including the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have publicly pointed out the hypocrisy of a tobacco-funded organization claiming to be concerned with health, vowed not to partner with the Foundation, and called on other organizations to take similar steps.

In 2017 the World Health Organization (WHO) made a formal statement that “This decades-long history means that research and advocacy funded by tobacco companies and their front groups cannot be accepted at face value. When it comes to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, there are a number of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation, particularly if it promotes the sale of tobacco and other products found in that company‟s brand portfolio. WHO will not partner with the Foundation. Governments should not partner with the Foundation and the public health community should follow this lead.”3 

A statement signed by deans of several prestigious public health schools in North America, which includes, among others John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said “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.”4 

The Odessa conference is called „Developing healthy responses in a time of change,’ but far from being part of healthy responses, Philip Morris is a primary cause of the enormous public health problem caused by tobacco use and the primary obstacle to greater progress in solving it. Philip Morris spends billions to market cigarettes around the world, often in ways that appeal to kids and often targeting vulnerable low- and middle- 1 http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php?title=Gerry_Stimson 2 http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php?title=Foundation_for_a_Smoke-Free_World 3 http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-09-2017-who-statement-on-philip-morris-funded-foundation-for-a-smoke-free-world 4 https://www.jhsph.edu/about/dean-mackenzie/news/smoke-free-world.html 2 income countries. An investigative report published by Reuters in 20175 revealed a massive, secret campaign by Philip Morris to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, depicting “a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world‟s tobacco control treaty.”

The Foundation is the latest manifestation of Philip Morris‟s global attempts to appear concerned with health, but it is actually a marketing effort for the company‟s newest lines of products such as heated tobacco products. 

The involvement of Foundation for a Smoke-free World is not the only indication that tobacco companies are driving the agenda of the Conference. Since 2014 KAC has organized the Global Forum on Nicotine6 an event which has provided a platform for the tobacco industry to promote its so-called “harm reduction products.” KAC‟s head, Prof. Gerry Stimson, 7 who is scheduled to give a speech on the first day of the conference, states that his activities are independent of tobacco companies, but evidence indicates that his organization received funding from the company Nicoventures8 (an e-cigarette manufacturer), part of British American Tobacco (BAT). Additionally, according to documents published by Tobacco Tactics – a resource on tobacco industry activity maintained by Bath University – Prof. Stimson confirmed that he repeatedly “enjoyed the hospitality of BAT.” 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, NGO “Life,” the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Ukraine and the Ukrainian Center for Tobacco Control ask KAC to recuse itself from the conference immediately. Because the Philip Morris-funded Foundation supports KAC, the group is actually helping to provide credibility to Philip Morris.

We also call on government officials, civil society and the experts who organize or participate in the conference to: 

  • demand immediate disclosure of the sources of funding for the 7th International City Health Conference;
  • reconsider their participation in an event that will lend visibility and credibility to organizations financed by multinational tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco. 
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