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Sign-on letter: Experts and organizations across the globe demand tobacco industry liability

To: Parties to the WHO FCTC and other government leaders and public health officials around the world

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge you to take bold action, at the upcoming meetings of the global tobacco treaty, to hold national and transnational tobacco corporations (the “tobacco industry”) liable for their abuses. This is a duty of governments under Article 19 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), and an essential step toward curbing the global epidemic of tobacco-related illness and saving millions of lives.

We represent a broad range of expertise on liability, reparations, and the past and ongoing damages caused by the tobacco industry. We are gravely concerned about the health and economic impacts of this deadly industry and its ongoing deception. And we believe the time is ripe to hold this industry liable around the world.

Tobacco products kill 8 million people yearly, while almost 150,000 youth become addicted each year. This is staggering and heartbreaking. Every year, 8 million parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones are lost to an entirely preventable epidemic. And every year, the tobacco industry addicts a whole new generation, many of whom will get sick or die in the coming decades.
This has a severe economic impact as well: US$1.85 trillion on the cost of smoking primarily health-related costs, including loss of productivity. This is equivalent to 1.8% of the world’s annual gross domestic product. Almost 40% of these costs occur in the Global South. There are also environmental costs of deforestation and water depletion due to tobacco cultivation and processing in addition to costs of pollution from tobacco smoke, cigarette-induced fires, and cigarette butts. For example, around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts made of plastics pollute the environment every year, costing at least $2 billion in ocean pollution annually; tobacco production emits and uses more than 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. People and governments are forced to pay the costs of harms caused by the tobacco industry.

As global leaders, you have the power to stop this deadly industry from destroying lives and harming the planet in service of its profits. And you have the power to rein in this industry’s decades-long tactics to deceive the public — most recently with its deceptive claims of “harm-reduction” and a “smoke-free future,” even as it continues marketing cigarettes (old and new) to youth. It’s time to find the courage to make tobacco corporations pay for the harms they cause. In truth, we can’t afford NOT to.

As experts on liability, reparations, and accountability across the globe, we know that mechanisms to effectively impose liability are a recognized means to curb corporate abuse, and provide justice to those who have been harmed by tobacco corporations. Compensation from claims, either from judicial settlements or awards, or through taxation or other forms of levy, are proven measures to unlock billions of dollars for healthcare or other costs. Effective and dissuasive sanctions are recognized means to rein in corporations and discourage corporate abuse. The WHO FCTC, the global tobacco treaty, explicitly recognizes liability’s potential among its provisions, obligates governments to explore its potential, and emphasizes the need for international and bilateral cooperation. That’s why there’s a growing movement to make this deadly industry pay, using tools available to governments and civil society around the world.

Governments can take action today to hold tobacco corporations liable, both internationally and nationally. We join in solidarity with the thousands of people around the world calling on you to take the following actions:

  1. Advance liability measures within the WHO FCTC during the 10th Conference of the Parties, taking place in Panama in 2023.
  2. Provide funding to the WHO FCTC Secretariat to:
    1. Provide technical guidance on implementing Article 19 WHO FCTC, where the right and ability for governments to hold the national and transnational tobacco industry corporations liable is embodied in international law.
    2. Structure and form better frameworks for international cooperation such as international liability regimes
  3. Implement Article 19 WHO FCTC and advance liability in your country through collaboration with local civil society organizations, academics, and legal experts (among them, the signatories below), including by, among others, advancing taxation measures, imposing corporate regulatory measures including bonds and other financial guarantees, imposing effective and dissuasive sanctions, adopting non-judicial or administrative compensation mechanisms, and using the civil liability toolkit to instigate tobacco lawsuits or update litigation rules to enable the same (created by an expert working group and adopted by the WHO FCTC governing body).

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Master Settlement Agreement, the groundbreaking case in the U.S. that continues to compel the tobacco industry to pay billions of dollars to account for its abuses and deception. We can’t afford to wait 25 more years for other countries to follow suit. Luckily, more and more countries around the world, from Brazil to South Korea to Canada, are pursuing liability as a means to address the epidemic of tobacco-related illness. But we need to take bold, creative steps to overcome the challenges and barriers many countries face to making tobacco corporations pay. Now is the time to accelerate this movement, and you, as global leaders, have the power and tools to do so.

We stand ready to share our expertise and support you in taking these bold and necessary actions. In doing so, together with your leadership, we can end the abuses of the tobacco industry, protect the planet, and save millions of people’s lives.

Sincerely,

Amandine Garde, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Cecille Agpawa, Transcending Institutions and Communities, Inc., Philippines
Daniel Dorado, Attorney, Ecuador
Davi Bressler, Attorney General’s Office of Brazil, Brazil
David Chalom, Doctors against Tobacco, Sweden
Debby Sy, Attorney
Dolors Carnicer-Pont, Catalan Institute Of Oncology, Spain
Dr. Michelle Otanez, University of Colorado Denver, United States
Hellen Neima, Attorney, Uganda
Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney, ASH U.S., United States
Linus Lloyd Melletat, University Hannover, Germany
Marty Otañez, University of Colorado Denver, United States
Michael Devillaer, McMaster University, Dept Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences, Canada
Patricia Blochowiak, M.D., American Academy of Family Physicians, United States
Purva Singh, UNOPS, India
Rose Nabwire, International Institute for Legislative Affairs, Kenya
Samuel Piret, FARES asbl, Belgium
Sharon Nyatsanza, Attorney, National Council Against Smoking, South Africa

350.org, United States
Action on Smoking and Health, United States
ADIC Sri Lanka (Alcohol and Drug Information Center), Sri Lanka
Afghanistan NCD Alliance, Afghanistan
African Center for Advocacy, Cameroon
African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), France
Anti Drug Abuse Association of Lesotho, Lesotho
Anti Tobacco women’s Alliance, Bangladesh
ArvoreAgua,Brazil
ASH Finland, Finland
ASH Scotland, United Kingdom
Asha Parivar, India
Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, Hong Kong
BLUE 21 / Unfairtobacco, Germany
Cameroon Coalition to counter Tobacco (C3T), Cameroon
CLAS Coalition for Americas’ Health, United States
CNCT France
CNS, India
Comité national contre le tabagisme, France
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, Nigeria
Corporate Accountability, Ecuador
Corporate Europe Observatory, Belgium
Culture Unstained, United Kingdom
Den Of Hope Youth Group, Kenya
European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, Belgium
Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR), United States
Fundación Inspirat para Cáncer de pulmón, Asma, EPOC y otras Enfermedades Respiratorias, Colombia
FUNDAHABLA, El Salvador
Global Center For Good Governance in Tobacco Control, Thailand
Health Funds for a Smokefree Netherlands, Netherlands
HealthJustice Philippines, Philippines
Indigenous Environmental Network, United States
Indonesian Youth Council for Tactical Changes (IYCTC), Indonesia
Japan Society for Tobacco Control, Japan
LUAIF Consulting, United States
Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control, Malaysia
Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH), Malaysia
Narasha Community Development Community, United States
National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal, Nepal
National council Against Smoking, South Africa
New Initiative for Social Development, Nigeria
New Vois Association of the Phils. Inc., Philippines
Norwegian Cancer Society, Norway
Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes, United States
PROGGA, Bangladesh
Public Health Advocacy Institute, United States
RightOnCanada.ca, Canada
RIGHTS Foundation and ISDS, Indonesia
Shakti Comunicaciones, Colombia
Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control, Slovenia
Small Planet Institute, United States
Sociedad Unida par la Movilización Anti Tabaco en El Salvador (SÚMATE), El Salvador
Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines
Sustainable Development Network Malaysia, Malaysia
Swiss Association for Tobacco Control, Switzerland
SYNATEEC, Cameroon
Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF), Tanzania
TELANG ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA, Malaysia
The Reformed Drug and Substance Abuse Initiative, Nigeria
Tobacco Control Alliance in Georgia, United States
Tobacco Free Association of Zambia, Zambia
UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh
Uganda National Tobacco Control Association, Uganda
Università del Terzo Settore, Italy
University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Vision for Alternative Development, Ghana
Vivantes Netzwerk für Gesundheit GmbH, Germany
Western Studios, Leeds Ltd, United Kingdom
Women’s Coalition Against Cancer, Malawi

If you have expertise on liability, reparations, and/or legal accountability, or if you are a part of a like-minded organization and would like to sign this letter, you can do so here.  And join more than 30,000 people demanding that governments take action to hold the tobacco liable here


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