Press & Media

Bloomberg Philanthropies Announces Organizations Selected to Lead “STOP,” $20 Million Global Tobacco Industry Watchdog

New Partnership to Include University of Bath, Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease

 Global Team to Expose the Tobacco Industry’s Deceptive Practices
Through Frequent Public Reports and Data Collection  

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced that the University of Bath, The Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) have been selected to collectively direct a new global tobacco industry watchdog group: STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products). With partners based in the UK, Thailand and France, the global watchdog will publish investigative reports detailing the tobacco industry’s lobbying tactics and marketing strategies, and will provide tools and training materials for low- and middle-income countries to push back against the industry’s influence.

“When I was a kid, tobacco advertisements often featured fake doctors selling the health benefits of cigarettes. Today, tobacco companies are still hiding the truth about their deadly products—and finding new ways to get around laws that protect public health. STOP will protect consumers by shining a spotlight on the tobacco industry’s underhanded tactics, including marketing directed at children,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder. “All of the groups taking part in this effort have a strong history of fighting back against the tobacco industry’s tricks, and together they can help save a lot of lives.”

The STOP competition was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies on March 7, 2018 at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa. Prospective applicants could include up to three organizations as partners, but at least one had to be based in a low- or middle-income country. The winning partners have decades of experience thwarting the international tobacco industry’s most duplicitous tactics:

  • The University of Bath is a top UK university, and its Tobacco Control Research Group specializes in investigative tobacco research and runs the indispensable research tool, tobaccotactics.org, which features over 750 profiles of individuals and entities linked to the industry;
  • The Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), based at Thammasat University’s School of Global Studies in Thailand, features South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), which produces the Tobacco Industry Interference Index, a survey of how public health policies in nine Southeast Asian countries are protected from the industry’s subversive efforts, and has pushed back across the region against this influence; and
  • The Union, a global scientific organization based in France, and sub-grantee Vital Strategies. Vital Strategies, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, co-produce the Tobacco Atlas online resource of national and international statistics and public health interventions. The Union’s tobacco control program, with hubs in New York, India, China, Singapore and Mexico, has worked with governments and civil society to reduce tobacco use in 50 countries since 2007.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ total STOP investment of $20 million over three years will be used to expand tobaccotactics.org, the Tobacco Atlas and the Interference Index, adding innovative big data and crowdsourcing methods, along with detailed analyses of whistleblower documents. STOP will also identify and target policy windows where timely interventions can produce significant impacts. A rapid response team will produce briefs, exposés of industry front groups, opinion pieces, and content for both earned and social media outreach that will aid local advocates globally. Grants will also be made to nongovernmental organizations in developing countries to combat industry interference.

“This partnership represents a step change in global efforts to counter the tobacco industry’s malignant influence,” said Anna Gilmore, Professor in the University of Bath’s Department for Health and Director of the Tobacco Control Research Group. “The tobacco industry remains the greatest barrier to improving public health. The new watchdog will enable countries around the world to implement the lifesaving public health policies that the tobacco industry has been relentlessly obstructing. It does so by bringing together leaders in investigative research, tobacco industry monitoring, tobacco control policy advocacy, and tactical communications programs to work closely with current Bloomberg initiatives.”

“The groups that will power STOP have pushed back on Big Tobacco in every corner of the globe,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, Director of Public Health Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “In exposing the false claims of tobacco marketing campaigns, they have strengthened public health efforts—especially where the industry targets the most vulnerable. Now, they can turn the tables on a global industry that continues to kill more than seven million people each year.”

“The tobacco industry is a major obstacle in the global drive to stop people dying early from cancer and heart disease,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General. “STOP will be a key partner in the effort to uncover and overcome these barriers to tobacco control. WHO is delighted to work with STOP to protect people from tobacco.”

All of STOP’s work will support the World Health Organization (WHO) and its efforts to curtail global tobacco use, including implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), one of the most widely adopted United Nations treaties with 181 Parties. Article 5-3 of the FCTC commits governments to protecting public health policies from the influence of the tobacco industry—and STOP will be the watchdog whose mandate is to uncover violations of this important pledge.

“With the tobacco industry, the more you dig, the more dirt you find,” said Dr. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, chair of GGTC. “The Bloomberg Philanthropies STOP grant will propel us to bring even more of their subversive and devious behavior to light. Everywhere in the world that you look, they have identified marketing opportunities and pushed forward shamelessly to capture new customers, particularly in the low- and middle-income countries. Despite some progress, the smoking rates in the bulk of the developing world are still above 40 percent. Pushing back hard on their expansion efforts is essential to lowering that percentage.”

“For decades, Big Tobacco has been working aggressively on a global scale to get as many people as possible hooked on its addictive and deadly products. STOP is the turning point. With this significant new resource funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, we also have the means and the partners to act globally, to expose the tobacco industry’s tactics, and to prevent another generation from being devastated by the consequences of tobacco use,” said José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union and President and CEO of Vital Strategies.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the world. Approximately 1.1 billion people globally are smokers, and the tobacco industry spends tens of billions of dollars annually on aggressive marketing campaigns. The industry often targets young people, who may be unaware of the dangers of tobacco use, as “replacement smokers” to take the place of those who quit or die.

One of the industry’s more recent marketing efforts is the “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World,” which Philip Morris International (PMI) will bolster with $80 million in annual funding for the next 12 years, a move seen by many public health experts as a thinly veiled effort to legitimize the tobacco industry and allow them access to the policymaking table. In addition to aggressively marketing its combustible cigarettes to children and teenagers in low- and middle-income countries, PMI is pushing alternative products, such as heat-not-burn and e-cigarettes, as cessation devices, while the evidence justifying these claims is inconclusive. Tobacco industry-funded research has repeatedly been a smokescreen for behavior that has led to worse outcomes for smokers.

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Background on Michael R. Bloomberg & Tobacco Control
Michael R. Bloomberg has long been focused on improving public health—during his time as New York City Mayor, in his work through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and now in his role as the World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed nearly $1 billion since 2007 to combat tobacco use worldwide. The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use partners with low- and middle-income countries to reduce tobacco use through a comprehensive, proven approach that combines evidence-based policy change with increased public awareness. Key strategies of this approach include creating smoke-free public places, banning tobacco advertising, increasing tax on tobacco products, requiring graphic pack warnings and supporting hard-hitting mass media campaigns.

ABOUT BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in 480 cities in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $702 million. For more information, please visit www.bloomberg.org or follow us on FacebookInstagramSnapchat, and Twitter.

Contact:
Jean Weinberg, +1-212-205-0247 / jean@bloomberg.org