Intended for healthcare professionals


Foundation backed by Philip Morris funds schoolchildren’s global science contest

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 19 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5366
  1. Anoo Bhuyan, health reporter
  1. New Delhi, India

The giant tobacco company is the only source of financial support for an anti-smoking foundation that has been widely criticised by the public health community. Anoo Bhuyan explores the relationship between Philip Morris, an education foundation, schoolkids, and the public health community

This past April, 35 teams of students aged 18 years and younger from Australia, India, Japan, Malawi, Thailand, and the United States visited the Kennedy Space Flight Center in Cape Canaveral in the US for the Conrad Challenge.1 They got a chance to present their ideas for innovation on a variety of topics including aerospace and aviation, cyber technology and security, the environment, health, and education.

This year the challenge—named for Pete Conrad, the third person to walk on the moon—had a new category, the “Smoke Free World Challenge.” The category called for children to come up with ideas to combat smoking in India, Malawi, and the US.

There’s an irony here. The sponsor for this new category is the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (FSFW). FSFW is wholly funded by the global tobacco giant, Philip Morris International (PMI) to the tune of nearly $1bn (£830m; €900m).

In July 2019 the science contest’s website described the foundation as an “independent, non-profit organisation established in 2017” which “funds research, promotes innovation, and supports collaborative initiatives” to reduce harm and deaths from smoking,2 and did not directly disclose the tobacco company funding.

Schoolchildren were especially encouraged to participate in this new category with discounts on their registration charges. Prizes included trips …

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