Lawsuit provides inside view of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

The allegations in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed Lourdes Liz, the former Director of Digital and Social Media at the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, provides specifics on how FSFW functions as an arm of Philip Morris International (sole funder of FSFW) and Alria, parent of Philip Morris Tobacco.

Broadly, she alleges that PMI uses the Foundation to engage in public relations and promotional activities for e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products that “through its hand-in-glove coordination with companies seeking to promote vaping among teenagers” and that these activities violate FSFW’s legal obligations as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization.

She specifically challenges FSFW’s claim that it is independent of PMI and cites several meetings and projects in which FSFW’s activities are suggested by or tightly coordinated with Philip Morris.

For example, “in the summer of 2018, Ms. Liz complained about why the Foundation was sponsoring the Conrad Challenge, run by the Conrad Foundation, an organization that supports a children’s STEM-based education initiative, in connection with smoke-free challenges in certain target markets. … In particular, Ms. Liz was alarmed to learn that the Foundation planned to fly the United States-based Conrad Challenge contest winners to Catania, Italy to visit the Foundation’s Centre of Excellence there, whose Founder and Director, Riccardo Polosa, had previously accepted a €1 million grant from PMI to investigate PMI’s heated tobacco products. It was clear to Ms. Liz that was yet another attempt by the Foundation to further align itself and its messaging with PMI by propagating a pro-vaping message aimed at teens under the thin pretext of a “harm reduction” discussion.”

The lawsuit also alleges, “in or around late February or early March 2018, Ms. Liz was shocked to learn that [FSFW President Derek] Yach, in conjunction with the advertising firm Ogilvy, had proposed an advertising concept that used Instagram influencers and personalities who performed vaping and e-cigarette-related tricks (such as blowing circular “vape” bubbles after inhaling from an e-cigarette).”

These allegations should also attract the attention of tax authorities to see whether FSFW violates New York and federal tax law.

There’s lots more; the suit is worth reading.

As far as I know, this is the first view from the inside that has been made public. The discovery from this case could provide very informative. I hope that Ms. Liz and her lawyers will ensure that it is made public.

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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