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Knowledge-Action-Change Limited (K-A-C) is a private organisation founded by Gerry Stimson. It is funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), which is in turn funded by Philip Morris International (PMI).


K-A-C was founded by Professor Gerry Stimson in 2011,1 along with its communications arm, KAC Communications, in 2014.2 K-A-C and KAC Communications share the same directors, but are registered as separate companies.34

Relationship with the tobacco industry

K-A-C Funded by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

K-A-C has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) since 2017.5 FSFW states that it is “an independent, U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) grantmaking organization with the purpose of improving global health by ending smoking in this generation”. It is solely funded by Philip Morris International.6

In 2017 and 2018 K-A-C was awarded over US$1 million in funding from FSFW.57

The grant funded the following activities:57

  • US$306,373 “to increase capacity for conducting and understanding research related to tobacco harm reduction”;
  • US$69,000 to produce “a combination of online journals”;
  • US$176,700 “to support the production of the first edition of the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction” (GSTHR), which was launched under the title ’No Fire, No Smoke’ in October 2018);
  • US$32,000 to translate the report into Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish; and
  • a further US$ 467,291 for road shows to promote the report, including ones that took place in Malawi and Kenya in March 2019.8

In 2019, K-A-C received a further US$1,378,366 in funding from FSFW to “extend the tobacco harm reduction scholarship programme for students and mentors in low and middle income countries” and “consolidate Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction’s position as a trusted source of robust, objective, and independent information on tobacco harm reduction”.9 The 2019 FSFW tax return also noted US$5,999,811 as “contributions approved for future payment”.9

In 2020, K-A-C received two more grants from the FSFW, amounting to US$937,191. The first grant to work on increasing “research capacity to understand, develop, and implement the science and evidence base relevant to THR” which resulted in the launch of the GTHR Scholarship programme 2020. The second grant to “Develop and disseminate Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report to increase awareness about national THR and cessation”, which funded the production of the second issue to the GSTHR (titled “Burning Issues”), its translations, and a briefing paper titled “Tobacco Harm Reduction and the Right to Health” 10 These projects received further grants totalling US$1,837,882 from FSFW in 2021,11 and a further US$1,501,604 in 2022.12

Historical Links with Nicoventures

K-A-C has received funding from Nicoventures, which was set up by BAT in 2010. Stimson was largely transparent about these links in the academic literature, although he described Nicoventures only as an e-cigarette company rather than a company set up, and wholly owned, by BAT. For example, one such declaration says: “A company of which G.S. Gerry Stimson is a director has received a research feasibility grant from an electronic cigarette company developing a new nicotine delivery device.”1314

At a February 2013 NICE meeting, Stimson also declared that K-A-C had  “requested and received development funding from Nicoventures for a project to support smoking cessation in a closed setting”.15 For more see our page on Gerry Stimson.


Companies House records show that K-A-C founder Gerry Stimson resigned as director in September 2022.16

Directors listed in 2023 include:16

  • Dr Grzegorz Król, appointed as director of K-A-C and KAC Communications in January 2018 1
  • Bisola Obileye, appointed as director of KAC Communications in January 20142 and director of K-A-C in September 2022

Previous directors include:1617

  • Gerry Stimson, Policy and Research Director, resigned in September 2022
  • Paddy Costall, Logistics and External Liaison Director, appointed in August 2011,1 resigned in September 2022

K-A-C no longer lists employees on its website. Employees listed in 2020 included:17

  • Harry Shapiro – GSTHR and Policy Work
  • Kevin Molloy – Director of Foundation Projects
  • Suely Castro – Events Manager
  • Ruth Goldsmith – Communications Manager
  • Vlad Radchenko – IT and Multimedia


Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) reports

Since 2017, FSFW has provided grants to K-A-C to fund the GSTHR project, including the publication of a biennial series of GSTHR reports. Harry Shapiro authored the GSTHR 2018, 2020 and 2022 reports, as well as some other reports produced by the project.1857

The first GSTHR report, ‘No Fire, No Smoke’, launched in Geneva when the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP8) took place, and warned against “over-proscriptive regulation and control” in tobacco control.19 The report credited Stimson as the “project management” and declared that it was supported “solely by a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World”. The report stated that it takes “its inspiration from the Global State of Harm Reduction report, which was first published by the International Harm Reduction Association (now called Harm Reduction International) back in 2006 and which is about to go into its sixth iteration.”

The second biennial GSTHR report “Burning Issues” was published in 2020.20 A briefing paper, also published in 2020, titled “Tobacco Harm Reduction and the Right to Health”, argued that policy that bars access to “safer nicotine products” also “denies people their right to health as enshrined in many international health conventions”. This report was also funded by the FSFW. Repeating an oft-used tobacco industry assertion, the report argues that “government policies and regulation are being unduly influenced by flawed science and anti-harm reduction lobbying” and that “flawed public health information in many countries is confusing and misleading people who want to switch away from smoking”.

It advocates a “rational” approach to both “Big Tobacco” and nicotine and castigates the WHO’s “resistance to tobacco harm reduction” as “missing the most significant public health opportunity the world has ever seen”.21 The GSTHR report was launched in Kenya at an event organised by the Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA). CASA is chaired by Joseph Magero, recipient of a Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship, which is funded by K-A-C and the FSFW.2223

For COP9, held in Geneva and online in 2021, K-A-C released another GSTHR report titled “Fighting the Last War: the WHO and International Tobacco Control”.24 The report criticized the WHO and promoted the “public health potential”24 of nicotine products. A series of interviews were conducted at the Oval Cricket ground in London as part of the launch event.25 Apart from Gerry Stimson and Harry Shapiro from K-A-C, interviews were conducted with Derek Yach (now ex-Director of FSFW) and Charles Gardner (Executive Director of INNCO).26

In November 2022, K-A-C released the 2022 GSTHR report titled “The Right Side of History” which “considers the history of tobacco harm reduction and the disruptive forces set loose by the emergence of SNP [safer nicotine products]”.27 The report was again critical of the WHO, and stated:

“…there has been disinformation about SNP from otherwise credible sources like the WHO, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and a host of government agencies, NGOs and individuals. Collectively they have promoted the idea that the new products are dangerous, and part of a ‘Big Tobacco plot’ to ‘hook kids on nicotine…”27

Ahead of COP10, in October 2023, the GSTHR project also published a briefing paper on the meeting which highlighted “The principal threats to THR and consumer access to SNP in the agenda for the COP10 meeting”.28

Other K-A-C outputs funded by the FSFW

K-A-C’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme (THRSP), first set up in early 2018 and which it initially co-organised with GFN, is funded by a grant from the FSFW.2930 The THRSP has branches in Malawi,31 Nigeria32 and Brazil (also affiliated with INNCO).33

Reports produced by scholarship recipients have included topics such as harm reduction in Malawi;34 tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh; and bidi smokers in India.35 The majority of recipients have come from low and middle-income countries (LMICs), including Romania, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Ghana, Brazil and Nepal. A smaller number have come from high income countries, mainly the United States, New Zealand and Ireland.3637 Some programme scholars and mentors have been affiliated with FSFW grantees, including Filter magazine, COREISS, CHRE and INNCO;3738 and some mentors have been affiliated with the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), of which Gerry Stimson was a board member until 2019.38

K-A-C also manages the website Nicotine Science Policy,39 that produces updates on “nicotine containing products, in particular nicotine delivery devices such as electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine delivery systems, smokeless tobacco, and other non-combustible tobacco products.”40 Shapiro has contributed several blog articles to the website.41


Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN)

K-A-C is responsible for organising the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN). The Forum says it is “funded by registration fees and does not receive any sponsorship from manufacturers, distributors or retailers of nicotine products including pharmaceutical, electronic cigarette and tobacco companies”.42 However, since 2017 the GFN has been held annually alongside a manufacturers’ event, the International Symposium on Nicotine Technology (ISoNTech), which is part-funded by tobacco companies. For more information, see our dedicated page on the GFN.

City Health International conference

Between 2012 and 2020, K-A-C also organised the annual City Health International (CHI) conference, through KAC Communications.434445 Speakers at the 2020 CHI conference included Michael McGrady, recipient of a K-A-C Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship funded by FSFW,46 and Marewa Glover, founder of the FSFW-funded COREISS.47 K-A-C is also custodian of CHI’s Paolo Pertica award.48 CHI has also hosted annual lectures since 2010. Lecture speakers affiliated with K-A-C have included Gerry Stimson (2010) and Harry Shapiro (2016).49


K-A-C helped set up the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO), following a meeting held at the GFN in Warsaw in June 2016, convened by Stimson and other members of K-A-C.50 INNCO was set up to “gain civil society consumer organisation stakeholder status” and have a voice at the WHO FCTC COP7.51 INNCO was funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World in 2018.52

In 2018, it was reported in Australian media that K-A-C had donated US$8000 to The Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA).535455 ATHRA states that it does “not accept donations from tobacco companies or their subsidiaries or from the vape industry”.56 In 2022, ATHRA directors stated that ATHRA “received a donation from Knowledge Action Change Communications, a private sector public health agency in the UK. The donation was sourced from a surplus arising from the Global Forum on Nicotine conference in May 2017. Knowledge Action Change Communications is legally separate from Knowledge Action Change (KAC).”57 ATHRA has campaigned and lobbied for the deregulation of e-cigarettes in Australia.58

In December 2023 The Times newspaper published an article that described how KAC helped promote e-cigarettes in the UK.59

Relevant links

  • Knowledge-Action-Change website
  • KAC Communications website
  • Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) website
  • Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) Scholarships website
  • Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction website
  • Nicotine Science and Policy website

TobaccoTactics resources

TCRG research

L. Robertson, A. Joshi, T. Legg, et al., Exploring the Twitter activity around the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Tobacco Control Published Online First: 11 November 2020, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055889

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