Health experts are skeptical.
Marlboro-maker Philip Morris International (PMI), which is trying to kick the cigarette habit in favor of “smoke-free” alternatives, has pledged almost $1 billion to the fight against traditional burn-based smoking.
Philip Morris pm said Wednesday that it would contribute around $80 million each year, for the next 12 years, to a new non-profit organization called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. Although the foundation is supposedly independent, the tobacco giant is so far its only contributor.
The foundation will be headed up by Derek Yach, a former World Health Organization (WHO) executive who has been a notable advocate for the switch to e-cigarettes that heat, rather than burn, nicotine-packed substances.
Philip Morris is these days pushing hard into the vaping market, and its results demonstrate the shift. In the first quarter of this year, its cigarette shipment volumes fell by 11.5% year-on-year, but its heated tobacco shipments were up almost ten-fold—overall, unit shipments were down 9.4% and net revenues were down 1.4%.
“There is a unique opportunity today to significantly change the health trajectories of the millions of men and women who continue to smoke by offering them a better choice,” PMI CEO André Calantzopoulos said in a statement. “The Foundation is a welcome driver of change, at a time when a smoke-free future is clearly on the horizon. We will welcome its recommendations to accelerate smoker adoption of less harmful alternatives.”
The company said its projected contributions depended on the foundation’s “requirements and operations.”
“I’m very cautious,” Linda Bauld, Cancer U.K.’s prevention expert, told the Financial Times. “Amongst the transnational companies, PMI has been the most positive about harm reduction but it’s not going to happen quickly and it’s focused in the developed world. I’d prefer research completely independent from industry.”