Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies on Wednesday announced a $20 million fund to launch Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products (STOP), a new global watchdog that will aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry tactics and practices to undermine public health.
The announcement was made at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town.
The organisation said STOP will function as a robust global monitoring system that complements existing efforts in identifying industry deception.
The watchdog will deliver regular reports detailing tactics and strategies both at global and country-level and will provide tools and training material for countries to combat Big Tobacco’s influence.
It will also liaise with partners of the existing Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use to supplement country-level grants that assist nonprofits and governments in pushing back strongly against interference by Big Tobacco.
“Over the last decade tobacco control measures have saved nearly 35 million lives, but as more cities and countries take action, the tobacco industry is pushing to find new users, particularly among young people,” said Michael Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder.
“We cannot stand by as the industry misleads the public in an effort to get more people hooked on its products – and this global watchdog will help us hold the industry accountable.”
For decades, tobacco giants have employed moves, such as engaging in anti-smoking campaigns, seen by advocates as tactics to deceive the public.
For instance, Philip Morris International recently provided an initial $80 million funding to ‘Foundation for a Smoke-free World,’ a move seen by many public health experts as a thinly veiled effort to legitimise the tobacco industry and allow them access to the policy-making table.
Tobacco use kills more than seven million people annually, according to the WHO.
Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, described the launch of the STOP initiative as timely.
His words: “It comes as tobacco giants such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are waging duplicitous PR campaigns claiming to be changed, responsible companies that want to help solve the tobacco problem.
“Philip Morris, BAT and other tobacco companies remain the main cause of this enormous public health problem and the primary obstacle to greater progress.
“To save lives, governments across the globe must stand up to the tobacco industry and fully implement the proven strategies called for by the tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, advertising bans and large, graphic health warnings.”