Derek Yach Leaves PMI-Funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

The foundation’s board of directors made the news official at the end of October. 

NEW YORK — In a change of leadership some observers have expected for well over a year, Dr. Derek Yach will be leaving the nonprofit Foundation for a Smoke-Free World as it searches for a new chief executive of the tobacco-financed anti-smoking NGO. 

“After careful consideration, the board has determined that now is the right time for a new leader to guide the essential efforts of the foundation, its team and its work with partners around the world,” said Pamela Parizek, the chair of the foundation’s board of directors, in a press statement distributed to outlets on Oct. 25.

According to the foundation, Dr. Yach will be replaced by general counsel Heidi Goldstein and chief financial officer David Janazzo as interim co-presidents. This arrangement will remain in place until the board of directors has completed a search for a new president. 

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Derek for helping to establish and build the foundation,” added Parizek in the same press release. “We deeply appreciate the contributions he has made to this team’s work and to communities around the world through decades of ground-breaking efforts in tobacco control and public health. We wish him all the best.”

Yach, who served as the foundation’s first president, thanked the board for his time as the leader of the organization and outlined how he feels about leaving. 

“I leave the Foundation with deep satisfaction that we now have an emerging cadre of hundreds of researchers, advocates and industry scientists dedicating themselves to this goal,” said Yach. 

“My future efforts aim to complement them,” he said. 

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is a global and independent tobacco control NGO established in New York, New York, with a hefty financial commitment from tobacco firm Philip Morris International (PMI). 

Despite its work to counter smoking and improve public perception of tobacco harm reduction and risk-reduced nicotine products, the foundation remains controversial for having accepted millions of dollars in support from PMI. Health groups have said that their funding sources should disqualify them for being taken seriously by other public health entities throughout the world. 

Yach, a former public health executive, was able to break this stigma and accomplished many institutional goals and has partnered with health agencies in countries all over the world. This includes their investments in independent tobacco harm reduction research and public policy advocacy by hundreds of professionals across several disciplines and fields. 

Some foundation grantees have openly and ironically protested against the nonprofit’s financial ties to PMI. This includes the author of this report. 

This is a developing story.

Note: The author has previously received a grant funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through the Knowledge-Action-Change Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship program which is administered and managed by KAC Communications in London. He writes this article free of any investment from KAC, the foundation, PMI, and other groups. This article complies with Vaping Post’s editorial guidelines.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article cites instances of some Foundation for a Smoke-Free World grantees taking issue with PMI as a primary funding source. This has been removed or changed due to gratuitous and loaded wording which conflicts with the accuracy of this portion of the article. The author wishes to express his apologies for insinuating that a large group of grantees have made these claims. While there are still several grantees who hold this belief who have discussed their concerns for PMI’s funding with the author, the scope of which isn’t as expansive as inferred. Vaping Post takes accuracy seriously and the editorial team ensures that this (though rare for both this publication and author) will not happen again.

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