On World No Tobacco Day, the World Heart Federation has launched a new initiative to address tobacco industry interference in science and research.
Tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and death in the world. The tobacco industry has a long history of systematic and deliberate interference in health and regulatory sciences. By distorting scientific evidence with biased and deceptive industry-funded research, it has sought to create unnecessary and harmful confusion and controversy in the minds of the public and policymakers; even scientists are not immune. Undeniably, promoting transparent and legitimate scientific research has never been one of the industry’s objectives.
Regarded as persona non grata by the World Health Organization and the global health community, the tobacco industry has recently redoubled its efforts to reintegrate itself in the scientific and policy communities with its exploitation of pandemic-related “corporate social responsibility” endeavours and its funding of media, public relations, and dubious research. In addition, due to its questionable connections and activities, the World Heart Federation considers the Philip Morris International (PMI)-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) as nothing more than a disingenuous front group of the tobacco industry.
The World Heart Federation recognizes that there is an increased need for clarity around conflicts of interest with the tobacco industry, in particular when organizing meetings and conferences. To this end, WHF has adopted and implemented a conflict of interest declaration for speakers and delegates at online and in-person events. This declaration specifies that all prospective delegates and speakers funded by the tobacco industry or its front groups, including the PMI-funded FSFW, are barred from participating in the congress or virtual meeting.
“This World Heart Federation initiative is pioneering and conveys a clear message: we condemn and reject all interference from the tobacco industry and its front groups. It fundamentally aims to protect our scientific activities from an industry which seeks to distort independent scientific evidence for the sole purpose of protecting its profits” says Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the WHF Tobacco Expert Group.
Having implemented this new policy internally, WHF now aims to continue working with Members and partners to combat tobacco industry influence around the world, and we celebrate their successes. In the coming months, WHF will unfold a series of activities and resources around this conflict of interest initiative for its Members to help ensure that events remain free from tobacco industry interference and influence.
Health and scientific organizations have a duty to protect both public health and the integrity of scientific research. It is essential that we keep up the fight by sending a strong message to the tobacco industry.
Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the WHF Tobacco Expert Group
Beatriz Champagne, Chair of the WHF Advocacy Committee