The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health joined 16 other schools of public health across the U.S. and Canada today in stating that it will refuse research funding from an anti-smoking group backed by tobacco industry giant Philip Morris.
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, created in September with nearly $1 billion from Philip Morris International, has a stated goal of reducing illness and death from smoking. Its listed priorities include supporting research on harm reduction and smoking cessation, identifying the right interventions, monitoring industry actions, and preparing tobacco farmers for a future of reduced demand.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, dean of the Bloomberg School, organized the statement signed by 17 deans saying that their schools would not collaborate with a group so closely associated with "an industry and a company whose products have killed millions of people around the world."
The statement continues: "Both the tobacco industry and Philip Morris International have a long history of funding 'research' in ways meant to purposely confuse the public and advance their own interests, aggressively market cigarettes globally, including to children, and persist in their relentless opposition to evidence-based tobacco control interventions."
MacKenzie told The Associated Press that, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration works on a plan to dramatically reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes in an effort to make them less addictive, it's especially important for schools to be mindful of where their funding comes from.
"This an especially critical time for tobacco control efforts," she told the AP. "Thoughtful, independent academic research will be essential to guide policy."
The Bloomberg School has a long history of working to uncover the public health dangers associated with smoking and in 1998 established the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, which aims to prevent death and disease from tobacco products by generating evidence to support effective tobacco control interventions.