Ending smoking within the next 30 years means eliminating combustible cigarettes worldwide. We, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, know this is a bold, complicated, and entirely attainable goal.
The why is urgent. The how will require embracing new ideas.
Smoking remains one of the most devastating public health crises on earth. More than 8 million people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses, however that number is not news and rarely makes headlines. The longevity of the smoking crisis, it seems, has desensitized us to its path of destruction.
Today, as the world grapples with an unprecedented pandemic, the dangers of smoking are back on the front page. COVID-19 joins a very long list of diseases that may affect smokers differently than nonsmokers. Yet, the precise interaction between smoking status and COVID-19 remains unclear. To resolve this ambiguity, the Foundation announced a request for proposals for research investigating the ways in which nicotine and tobacco use may affect COVID-19 infection rates, severity, and mortality.
A pandemic in its own right, smoking has long been the world’s largest preventable cause of death—a fact that will remain true after COVID-19 recedes. Indeed, as this virus brings new prominence to the public health community, we must use this platform to revitalize tobacco control efforts.
It has been fifteen years since the adoption of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In that time, the world’s richest countries have experienced substantial declines in smoking rates; yet, much work remains to be done. There are still more than 1 billion smokers worldwide, over 80% of whom live in the developing world.
In November of 2021, the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties will gather to review progress toward the FCTC’s goals, considering: What have we learned since the adoption of the treaty? And how can we do better? At the Foundation, we have spent the past year asking ourselves the same questions, finding cause for both celebration and concern.
While we endorse many of the FCTC’s admirable articles, their implementation has been slow and, in some cases, nonexistent—a shortcoming that largely can be attributed to a lack of funding for the appropriate initiatives. Moreover, the original FCTC pays inadequate attention to the promise of harm reduction, as well as the unique needs of women and indigenous people who smoke, those living with comorbid conditions, and farmers whose lives depend on income from tobacco.
In 2019, the Foundation launched several initiatives aimed at filling these gaps:
I am encouraged by the tremendous work we have accomplished in the past year. But we are only just beginning. As the Foundation forges on, we remain committed to our goal of ending smoking and the use of toxic smokeless tobacco products. Though pursuing this goal entails a global fight, it is also a deeply human venture. It is my task—and the task of all who join me on this journey—to prioritize the needs of the people we aim to help:
The woman desperately seeking assistance in kicking her decades-long cigarette habit.
The indigenous child who just lost a parent to lung cancer.
The tobacco farmer who can no longer support her family.
The e-cigarette user pondering whether he should switch back to combustible tobacco.
The patient with schizophrenia struggling to manage his disease and his addiction.
These are the people who motivate me every day—and who will continue to motivate the work of the Foundation in 2020 and beyond.
Dr. Derek Yach
Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
At the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, we support, fund, and advance innovative programs and research that will lead to real change. Unique among our peers, our approach is based on first understanding the challenges smokers face when quitting, and then researching and applying innovative solutions. We’re committed to helping adult smokers quit the habit or switch to tobacco harm reduction products.
The Foundation is also attentive to the needs of vulnerable populations impacted by the declining demand for tobacco. Focusing on smallholder farmers, we work ensure that these populations are supported in the transition to sustainable alternative livelihoods.
There are over
smokers in the world today.1
Developing a solution is critical and timely. Smokers demand better and safer options, yet implementation of research in this area is lagging. Today, we have the opportunity to leverage innovative technologies that separate the health risks associated with nicotine from those of emissions found only in combustible cigarettes.
We can improve the lives and health of millions through our three core pillars:
Complement ongoing tobacco control efforts to accelerate quitting while understanding the individual smoker; and enhance access to independent research about tobacco harm reduction products.
Promote diversification in tobacco-dependent economies.
Focus on delivering change across the entire global tobacco industry and nicotine ecosystem.
Embedded in these principles is the Foundation’s commitment to gender equality and the application of a comprehensive gender perspective.
What is it about the Foundation’s work and mission that makes you proud to work for the organization?
Derek Yach, President
“Ending smoking within a generation is an extremely challenging and beneficial mission. This presents a great opportunity for me to use my commercial as well as nonprofit skills learned over the last two decades. I am particularly attracted to the notion that there is a pathway between smoking and quitting that involves technology-driven harm reduction strategies.”
“We have a great opportunity to perform good works and to help smokers and smallholder farmers improve their lives. I like the challenge of tackling complex problems that have frustrated people for a long time by bringing a fresh outlook and an open mind. Despite the great progress that has been made, so much more needs to be done – and is being done by the Foundation.”
“I am proud to work toward the elimination of the world’s leading cause of preventable death, and for an organization that meets the people we seek to help where they are and without judgment. I’m also humbled to work with colleagues who are courageous, creative, and extraordinarily intelligent.”
“Since the inception of the FCTC, virtually nothing has been done to meaningfully fulfill Article 17. Because of this lack of action, there is now an urgent need to diversify smallholder tobacco farmer incomes and the governments dependent on those revenues. I am extremely proud to lead a team whose singular mission is to fill this glaring gap.”
“I’m proud to work for such a mission-driven Foundation that looks at the big picture of how tobacco is impacting the world, and leads with facts and science.”
“I am proud to work for the Foundation because it supports unbiased, transparent and objective research on tobacco and tobacco harm reduction products within many scientific fields, including economics to provide evidence that will shed light on how the global community will be able to efficiently end the tobacco epidemic. I feel privileged to work with great minds and global experts in these fields who are humble, openminded and forward-looking.”
“FSFW is a mission-focused organization with the goal of ending smoking worldwide in this generation. This allows us to be creative in considering the best ways to help smokers quit by exploring new technologies, working with innovative scientists new to the field, and allowing the science to truly lead the way.”
“I’m passionate about the power of the private sector and innovation to drive national economic and agricultural transformation. I’m proud to work for FSFW and ATI because our strategy and funding allow us to invest in great partners and programs that share our vision of vibrant, inclusive economies that create prosperity for smallholder farmers, our core customers.”
“The commitment to good science which will lead to the continuing knowledge and actions necessary to achieve a ‘smoke-free world.’”
Health, Science, and Technology
Agriculture and Livelihoods
We know most smokers want to quit, but struggle with cessation tools that offer success rates of less than 10%.1 Improving these outcomes requires that we go beyond the current available information to understand the role that smoking plays in the individual smoker’s life. Our efforts also attend to the diversity of tobacco products used across the world. We are working, for example, to identify strategies that will reduce the use of toxic smokeless tobacco products in South Asia.
Over the next several years, we will leverage data, research, and input from stakeholders and experts to complement ongoing tobacco control efforts by the World Health Organization. We will accelerate the development of more effective tools to help smokers quit or reduce their risks with a focus on building capacity for research targeting the low- and middle-income countries where the majority of smokers live.
To prepare for a future of reduced tobacco demand, we are working to make the agriculture sector globally more competitive. To achieve this goal, we collaborate with smallholder tobacco farmers toward the development of new business models that create value for existing participants in the tobacco supply chain.
In this spirit, our Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) affiliate is partnering with the private sector, smallholder farmer organizations, government entities, and financial stakeholders to catalyze investment, develop and strengthen extension services, and promote entrepreneurship. The goal of this initiative is to support tobacco farmers in their efforts to transition to alternative crops and livelihoods.
Our Industry Transformation efforts focus on attaining change within the global tobacco industry and nicotine ecosystem. Establishing a comprehensive data set that encompasses the companies that produce nicotine-based products is a necessary precursor to developing effective policies. The Global Trends in Nicotine reports are an important part of our overall research efforts and lay the foundation for our work.
The Tobacco Transformation Index, which is the first action of the Foundation’s Industry Transformation initiative, aims to accelerate the reduction of harm caused by tobacco use. The Index is a tool to catalyze the transformation of the global tobacco industry for the benefit of public health. By monitoring and critically evaluating tobacco companies’ behavior, including actions that either support or impede tobacco harm reduction, the Index will provide objective, transparent information to all stakeholders and incentivize companies to act more quickly and responsibly than they otherwise would.
Grants authorized as of December 31, 2019: $161.7 million
In 2019, the Foundation made significant progress toward our goal of ending smoking in this generation:
We filled gaps in our understanding of smoking beliefs and behaviors by surveying over 54,000 adults across seven countries in the Global State of Smoking Poll 2019, a follow-up to the initial 2017 poll.
We continued our efforts to prepare farmers for an era of reduced tobacco demand by supporting the ATI’s Second Annual Agricultural Transformation Summit in Malawi.
We took our first step toward understanding the global flow of tobacco and studied its implications for tobacco control efforts by publishing the Global Trends in Tobacco Production and Trade Report.
We launched the development of the Tobacco Transformation Index with a global consultation process designed to gather feedback from a wide range of experts and interested parties. These included representatives of academia, associations, business, international organizations, the investment community, media, NGOs, think tanks, and advocacy organizations. Consultation was conducted primarily via a global series of multi-stakeholder dialogues, consisting of eight full- or half-day sessions held in seven countries. The Tobacco Transformation Index will be published later in 2020 and will evaluate many of the largest nicotine delivery companies in the world.
As we move into 2020, we are laser-focused on advancing research that increases our understanding of tobacco use and supporting innovators whose work will catalyze the end of smoking.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is an independent, U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the purpose of improving global health by ending smoking in this generation. The Foundation is currently funded by Philip Morris International (PMI) through a binding pledge agreement for 12 years. The Foundation guaranteed its independence through its Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws that preclude any influence from PMI or any other tobacco company on the Foundation’s activities or funded research. The Foundation’s Board of Directors and independent external auditors hired by the Board ensure compliance.