April 26, 2019

Demand Big Tobacco pay for the harms it causes

Cigarette smoke

In 1994, the top executives of the seven largest tobacco corporations in the U.S. stood before Congress and said they did not believe nicotine was addictive. They were lying. And they knew it.

In 2017, a sweeping Reuters exposé documented a vast, clandestine campaign by Philip Morris International (PMI) to undermine global tobacco control policy, describing it as “an offensive that stretches from the Americas to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power.”

Big Tobacco’s decades and decades of deceit and political interference are indeed well-documented.

But it has come up against a fearsome opponent. You.

Corporate Accountability, in partnership with allied organizations and people like you, has successfully protected public health policymaking all over the world from Big Tobacco’s interference for years.

In fact, our shared successes have forced PMI to attempt a new and devious way to polish its image and get a foot back in the door of public health policymaking. In 2017, PMI launched a new foundation, called the “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.” It announced it would spend $80 million per year for 12 years to fund this new vehicle for political interference globally.

We’re not surprised … but we also know it’s wholly unacceptable. PMI needs to stop funding PR schemes, and start paying for the harms it’s caused.

Next week, I’ll be at PMI’s annual shareholders’ meeting speaking truth to power to its top executives — and I need your voice with me. Add your name to tell PMI: Shut down your foundation. Pay for the devastation the tobacco epidemic has caused.

We have effectively shut out Big Tobacco from global public health policymaking, thanks to decades of powerful organizing with government officials, allied organizations, and people like you all over the world. In fact, just this past fall, together we kicked Big Tobacco out of the global tobacco treaty for good.

So the industry is resurrecting one of its time-tested strategies: hide behind so-called “corporate social responsibility” schemes and front groups. But a “smoke-free” veil can’t hide that Big Tobacco is still the same industry… one that’s determined to addict a whole new generation of people to its new generation of products. And the only way it can do that is if it interferes in the powerful policymaking happening all over the globe.

The good news is that the global public health community is seeing through the “smoke-free” smoke. The World Health Organization, home of the global tobacco treaty, publicly rejected the foundation’s request for partnership. Prominent universities and institutions have rejected its funding. And more than one hundred public health organizations have taken action to condemn the foundation.

Next week, the eyes of the media and investors will be on Philip Morris International during its most important day of the year: its annual shareholders’ meeting. And I’ll be there, too, bringing your voice to speak truth to power to its top executives.

We know that with enough public pressure, we can keep Big Tobacco out of policymaking, and turn the tide toward justice for the people whose lives have been devastated by this industry. The first step is exposing this foundation for what it is: just another PR tactic by PMI. Add your name now to speak truth to power at Philip Morris International’s shareholders’ meeting next week. 



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