Report: U.N. Agency Alleges Tobacco Industry Scheme
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new World Health Organization (WHO) report accuses the tobacco industry of waging a secret campaign to undermine the agency's efforts to combat smoking, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The Post said the 240-page report charges the industry with trying to pit other United Nations-affiliated agencies against the WHO, of trying to ``discredit'' the WHO and cut its budgets, and of hiring experts who grossly distorted the results of scientific research into the effects of smoking.
The report also claims that tobacco firms secretly placed their own ``consultants'' at the Geneva-based WHO to monitor the agency's anti-smoking activities, and even monitored some meetings and obtained confidential documents, according to the Post.
Commissioned by the WHO last fall, the report was written by former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and three other international experts on public health and government relations.
Much of its information comes from tobacco company documents made public through U.S. court proceedings, according to the Post report.
One chapter details a 1988 plan headed by Philip Morris Cos. chief executive Geoffrey Bible, then head of the company's international tobacco arm, to attack WHO anti-smoking initiatives worldwide.
The report concludes that many aspects of the effort, called the Boca Raton plan, are still being implemented today.
``The tobacco companies' own documents show that they viewed WHO, an international public health agency, as one of their foremost enemies,'' the Post quoted the report as saying.
``The documents show further that the tobacco companies instigated global strategies to discredit and impede WHO's ability to carry out its mission,'' it continued.
The report also cited tobacco company documents that showed the industry ``relied heavily on international and scientific experts with hidden financial ties to the industry.''
``Perhaps most disturbing, the documents show that tobacco companies quietly influenced other U.N. agencies and representatives of developing countries to resist WHO's tobacco control initiatives,'' it quoted the report as saying.
David Davies, a vice president at Philip Morris International, told the Post some documents selected by the WHO ``do not reflect an approach that today we would adopt.''
``They are the product of a polarized and unproductive environment in which few solutions were sought, and conflict prevailed over consensus. Philip Morris regrets this,'' the Post quoted Davies as saying.
But he denied that Philip Morris obstructed WHO's health message or its tobacco control initiatives.
Much of the report seeks to document tobacco industry efforts to undermine WHO anti-tobacco activities in the developing world. In particular, it accuses the industry of working to convince the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization that poor nations should not emphasize anti-smoking efforts because tobacco is such a potentially lucrative cash crop.
``That top executives of tobacco companies sat together to design and set in motion elaborate strategies to subvert a public health organization is unacceptable and must be condemned,'' the report's executive summary concludes, according to the Post.