The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s rebrand is imminent, but this industry-funded scientific lobby group remains a danger to tobacco control

Posted in: Industry tactics

In May 2024 the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World rebranded, changing its name to Global Action to End Smoking, and stating that “The organization does not seek or accept funding from companies that produce tobacco or non-medicinal nicotine products.” This followed the cancellation of PMI’s funding agreement with the former Foundation in 2023. As it stands, Global Action to End Smoking (GAES) is still solely funded by money granted by PMI.
Read on for our earlier thoughts on the implications of this rebrand.

Written by Dr Tess Legg, Research Associate in the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath

Since the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s (FSFW) launch in September 2017, TCRG researchers have been monitoring and investigating the organisation. Through analysing its scientific activities, our evidence has demonstrated that FSFW has functioned as a tobacco industry-influenced scientific lobby group furthering the interests of the industry, rather than the independent public health organisation it claims to be.

Fast forward to October 2023, six years on from the organisation’s launch, and FSFW has announced it has received its final payment from its funder, tobacco corporation Philip Morris International (PMI), and that the pledge agreement between the two has concluded. This is despite the original agreement outlining that PMI would fund FSFW for twelve years in the first instance. The organisation’s new President has taken to X (formally Twitter) to state that, going forward, he will neither seek nor accept further tobacco industry funds.

But how should these announcements be understood? Is this the first step towards FSFW becoming a credible scientific organisation, or does it remain a danger to tobacco control and public health? As has been the case historically with tobacco industry-funded third parties, FSFW’s opaque way of operating often makes it impossible to know what is happening behind closed doors; we can’t simply “pop the hood” and take a look inside at its inner workings. What we can do, though, is consider some facts at hand:

  • FSFW’s new President states the organisation will “continue to be a strong and independent voice”. This lack of acknowledgement of PMI’s control over FSFW thus far (as outlined in the previous pledge agreements between the two bodies), demonstrates continued obfuscation from the Foundation’s leadership, rather than any significant sea-change.
  • PMI’s “termination payment” to FSFW just two months ago was an enormous $122.5 million lump sum - the largest amount the tobacco corporation has provided at any one time in the history of FSFW. This lump sum is on top of a “final grant” sum of $17.5 million which was paid to FSFW in July 2023. The “termination payment” effectively funds FSFW for a further seven years, until 2030 (at a rate of $17.5 million annually – the grant amount FSFW received from PMI in 2022 and 2023). Whilst we don’t know exactly how long it will take for the Foundation to spend this sum, it cannot reasonably be considered as independent from the tobacco industry while relying on these funds.
  • Many of the grants FSFW has made to organisations for science and advocacy work are still active. This suggests the current trajectory of FSFW’s efforts – often prioritising industry-favoured market-based solutions to the tobacco epidemic and advocating for greater involvement of the tobacco industry in science and policymaking – looks set to continue for the time being. Major grantees Knowledge Action Change Limited and Cornell University are currently funded until August 2025 and June 2028, respectively, for example.
  • FSFW is making plans to change its name and brand to “reflect its new public health focus”. Despite stating it will no longer accept tobacco industry funds, little assurance has been made about its independence from other industries (or their third parties), many of which are known to influence science in the same ways for the same reasons as the tobacco industry. Indeed, the President’s follow-up statement that FSFW will not accept “nonmedicinal nicotine industry” funding appears to suggest that a collaboration with medicinal nicotine producers may be on the horizon. The President announced FSFW’s imminent rebranding and search for new funders at an event held by an organisation – the Food and Drug Law Institute - whose members include manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, tobacco, dietary supplements and cannabis, as well as law firms and consultants working with these industries. This also hints at the kinds of collaborators FSFW is hoping to attract.

Whatever its next guise, FSFW continues to have an immense amount of money from PMI at its disposal and cannot be deemed an independent public health body. Collaborating with FSFW, or parties it financially supports, continues to have the potential to further the tobacco industry’s interests – namely to create ignorance about the potential harms of its products and the need for regulation, to promote industry-favoured 'solutions' to the tobacco epidemic, and to frame the industry as a legitimate stakeholder in science and policymaking.

Find out more:

LEGG, T., CLIFT, B. & GILMORE, A. B. 2023. Document analysis of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s scientific outputs and activities: a case study in contemporary tobacco industry agnogenesis. Tobacco Control, tc-2022-057667. Available:

LEGG, T., LEGENDRE, M. & GILMORE, A. B. 2021. Paying lip service to publication ethics: scientific publishing practices and the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Tobacco Control, tobaccocontrol-2020-056003. Available:

TOBACCO CONTROL RESEARCH GROUP. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World [Online]. University of Bath. Available:

STOP. 2023. Will FSFW follow in its industry-funded predecessors’ footsteps? Available:

COHEN, J. E., GILMORE, A. B., LEGG, T., LAURENCE, L., EISSENBERG, T., CZAPLICKI, L. & HOE, C. 2021. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World - even less independent from its tobacco company funder [Online]. BMJ. Available:

CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS Philip Morris-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Available:

Posted in: Industry tactics