May 22, 2019

STATEMENT: Brazil to Big Tobacco: It’s time to pay up

Yesterday, Brazil’s office of the attorney general launched a lawsuit against Big Tobacco to recover the country’s healthcare costs associated with the tobacco epidemic. It includes companies representing 90 percent of the Brazilian tobacco market and their international parent corporations: Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.

Not only could this lawsuit help to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its past abuses in Brazil, it could help other countries to start exploring additional strategies to prevent the industry from rehashing it’s old playbook as it pivots toward its newest line of nicotine and tobacco products like e-cigarettes and iQOS.

In the United States, lawsuits from state attorneys general forced the release of millions of internal documents and ushered in a new era of tobacco control and public health. And while the U.S. has taken the lead on cases like this in the Global North, this case is a milestone for holding the industry accountable in the Global South.

For nearly ten years, governments party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) have been advancing methods to hold Big Tobacco accountable. This case comes on the heels of a decision passed last October that called on governments to hold the industry responsible for its abuses by using Article 19 of the FCTC. The FCTC is the landmark public health and corporate accountability treaty ratified by over 181 countries that was created to reverse the tobacco epidemic and hold Big Tobacco responsible.

Please see below for Corporate Accountability Associate Campaign Director Michél Legendre’s quote.

“This is a huge step forward toward holding big tobacco responsible for its long history of abuse and health harms in Brazil. The industry has profited richly off of externalizing the burden of its products and business model on countries and people and this suit will help to recoup the health care and economic costs countries around the globe have shouldered for far too long. In taking this step forward, Brazil is leading the tobacco control movement in the Global South to the next stage where Big Tobacco is finally held accountable for its deadly business.”

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