India asks its regions to reject health foundation funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris
July 01, 2019
Indian volunteers dressed as demons stand beside a replica of human skeleton smoking cigarette during an awareness rally on occasion of the "World No-Tobacco Day" © AFP / Arun Sankar
India’s health ministry has sent a letter to all its state governments, asking them not to collaborate with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) because of its links to tobacco giant Philip Morris.
The letter, seen by Reuters, has been sent as a preventive measure. Similar instructions were likely to be sent to other federal ministries, the national ministry said.
It also said that Philip Morris was funding FSFW while also manufacturing and promoting harm-reduction smoking devices.
“Any collaboration with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World should be avoided in the larger interest of Public Health,” senior health ministry official Sanjeeva Kumar wrote in the letter.
The FSFW, which focuses on eliminating the usage of cigarettes, said it had no projects with any state government institutions in India. “We seek partnerships with all who share our goal to end smoking in the world,” its spokesperson told Reuters.
The foundation, which was established in 2017, works toward smoking cessation through the use of new technologies and alternative products. It claims that it works independently but, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are “clear conflicts” due to the $80 million in annual funding that FSFW receives from Philip Morris.
FSFW denies having joint projects with any state government institutions in India and said in May that its team was committed to working with others “to accelerate an end to smoking in this generation” in that country.
That same month, Philip Morris said it had urged the Indian government to create a regulatory environment for devices such as its iQOS.
According to official statistics, India has the second largest number of smokers in the world, after China. With 106 million adult smokers in India, more than 900,000 people die there each year due to tobacco smoking-related illnesses.
At least three Indian anti-tobacco groups earlier this year wrote to the health ministry, calling for the rejection of any possible partnerships with FSFW.