The Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) competition was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies 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, that 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 support the creation of a robust global monitoring system that complements existing efforts in identifying industry deception. The tobacco industry watchdog will deliver regular reports detailing industry tactics and strategies both at the global and country-level and will provide tools and training materials for countries to combat industry influence.
STOP will also liaise with existing Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use partners to supplement country-level grants that assist nonprofits and governments in pushing back strongly against industry’s interference.
For decades, tobacco giants have tried to deceive the public with duplicitous tactics. Philip Morris International recently provided the initial $80 million of funding to “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World,” a move seen by many public health experts as a thinly veiled effort to legitimize the tobacco industry and allow them access to the policy-making table. In addition to aggressively marketing its combustible cigarettes to children and teenagers in low- and middle-income countries, the industry is pushing alternative products, such as heat-not-burn and e-cigarettes, as cessation devices while the evidence remains inconclusive. Tobacco industry-funded research has repeatedly been a smokescreen for behavior that has led to worse outcomes for smokers. For example, supposedly safer low-tar and filtered cigarettes led to greater numbers of smokers, deeper inhalation patterns, and or higher daily consumption – all worsening public health worldwide.