Tobacco claims some eight million lives each year from cancer and other lung diseases, a million in China alone Photo: AFP/File
health

Report names and shames countries cozy with Big Tobacco

16 Comments
By Marlowe HOOD

The global tobacco industry has aggressively lobbied governments during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand markets and blunt measures designed to curb their business, a report from watchdog groups aligned with the World Health Organization claimed on Tuesday.

A ranking of 57 countries based on their willingness to keep Big Tobacco at bay puts Japan and Indonesia at the bottom of the list, with Romania, China and Lebanon among the 10 worst offenders.

The United States is the lowest-ranked Western nation, with Malaysia, Spain, Germany and India also seen as too accommodating, said the report by non-profit groups based in France, England and Thailand.

"The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of deception and of capitalising on humanitarian crises, and it is using the pandemic to attempt to improve its deteriorating public image," commented Adriana Blanco Marquizo, head of the secretariat for the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Tobacco claims some eight million lives each year from cancer and other lung diseases, a million in China alone.

In several countries, stringent tobacco control measures were defeated or diluted.

Philip Morris International (PMI), for example, "lobbied for the promotion and sale of its heated tobacco product in a dozen countries", resulting in the lifting of bans, lower taxes, and a voice in government-led deliberations on regulating tobacco products, the report found.

Taxes on these new nicotine delivery devices are now lower than cigarettes in France, Germany and Japan.

Costa Rica, Zambia and Bangladesh also eased the tax burden for tobacco firms.

Big Tobacco has a long track record of suing to block plain packaging for cigarettes, sponsoring cultural events or sports teams, and challenging the legality of smoke-free zones.

During the pandemic, tobacco firms have been handing out personal protective equipment, ventilators and hand sanitisers in countries across the world.

"While publicizing its charitable acts to resuscitate its image as being part of the solution, the industry was simultaneously lobbying governments not to impose restrictions on its business," the report said.

In Kenya, the government listed tobacco products as "essential products" during the pandemic, and in Jordan cigarettes were delivered with bread and other foods directly to neighborhoods.

By contrast, India and South Africa banned the sale of tobacco products during the pandemic.

More broadly, the countries seen as least susceptible to the influence of tobacco interests included France, Uganda, Britain, New Zealand and Iran.

Peru, The Netherlands, Kenya and Ethiopia also got good marks.

The report, releasee by the STOP partnership, was put together after former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the researchers a three-year grant of $20 million to track how the industry markets its wares worldwide, especially in developing countries.

"This is the only product I know of where if you use it as advertised, it will kill you," Bloomberg told AFP in 2018, when he awarded the grant.

More than 80 percent of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

Smoking has plateaued in most rich nations, but in the developing world the total number of tobacco users -- overwhelmingly men, especially the young -- continues to climb.

The global tobacco market size was valued at nearly $850 billion in 2019.

The groups collaborating on the report included the Tobacco Research Group at the University of Bath, the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


16 Comments
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Is anyone surprised at Japans low ranking.

The Japanese government owns just over a third of Japan Tobacco, a company which in turn controls 60% of Japans Tobacco market.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Japan low rankin doesn't surprise me. I still have to confront smokers at the where my children are playing because they come there, sit close to children, pull out their cigarettes, and try to start smoking.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

agree with you both. what a joke

8 ( +9 / -1 )

The US is on this list because most people think only of the biggest states. But there are 50 states and the smoking laws in many states are horrible.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japan shouldn't pay too much attention to such reports.

Foreigners don't dictate what is right and wrong in the world.

Just one of many views.

-18 ( +2 / -20 )

"The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of deception and of capitalising on humanitarian crises, and it is using the pandemic to attempt to improve its deteriorating public image," commented Adriana Blanco Marquizo, head of the secretariat for the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Nonsensical statement.  How exactly?  Advertising that smoking stops covid?  Typical evidence free nonsense spouted by WH officials.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Jt is the worlds leading Tobacco company not only in Japan and they keep buying out competitors. While they retreat a bit in Japan on in-face promotions they make up for it in developing nations.

tobacco companies will not take any initiative in advertising/ marketing reductions unless forced by law.

and I smoke, cigars, about 2 a week

8 ( +8 / -0 )

You’d better stop escalating soon that war against us smokers. If you lose our financial and intellectual contributions you are much faster dying than by acquiring any health issues that might stem from tobacco use. And you don’t want that!

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

You’d better stop escalating soon that war against us smokers. If you lose our financial and intellectual contributions you are much faster dying than by acquiring any health issues that might stem from tobacco use. And you don’t want that!

Oh my Gosh do you really think that smokers can "go Galt" and ruin the healthy-breathing world?

Go for it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

bakakuma:

Foreigners don't dictate what is right and wrong in the world.

I have no intention of dictating what is right or wrong in Japan. If smokers want to get lung cancer, then it 's no skin off my back. Go for it. Doesn't matter how much the tobacco industry advertises - I will never buy their products, including their beverages.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Nonsensical statement. How exactly? Advertising that smoking stops covid?

By getting governments to deem cigarettes an essential item during lockdown. Mind games.

 If you lose our financial and intellectual contributions you are much faster dying than by acquiring any health issues that might stem from tobacco use

Tobacco use killed both my parents and my brother, all well before they were old enough to claim their old age pension. You know what you can do with your financial and intellectual contributions?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

bakakumaToday  10:09 am JST

Japan shouldn't pay too much attention to such reports.

Foreigners don't dictate what is right and wrong in the world.

People should have the choice to smoke if they want but non smokers shouldn't have to put up with their smoke. The onus should be on the smoker to go somewhere away to smoke, not non-smokers having to get away from the smoke and I'm pleased establishments are finally heading that way.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

People should have the choice to smoke

No, they shouldn't. Their lifestyle choice results in everybody else having to pay for their cancer treatment.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

PlasticMonkey - do alcohol, high sodium or high fat foods also fall into your thoughts on what should be permitted or not?

You could probably add skateboarding (everyone I skated with as a kid broke a bone at sometime) and many other known dangerous activities.

I don't smoke but I don't begrudge anyone who does (even if my tax money goes to their potential health issues at some point).

1 ( +3 / -2 )

We should all be free to 'choose our own poison'. If you want to kill yourself with cigarettes, just go ahead - BUT leave others out of it!!!

The biggest objection to smoking is that it often forces others to co-smoke. Secondhand smoke is dangerous!

Smoking in the car when non-smokers (especially children) are present is selfish and cruel.

Smoke leaves traces, including nicotine and tar stains, on your skin, teeth, clothes, carpets, curtains, even wallpaper. Yuk!!

Have you ever worked in a bar and had to clean out dozens of ashtrays filled with dog-ends, cigar stubs, ash ...? It was the task I hated most when I worked in a pub.

Cold smoke stinks. Kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray.

Agreed, having to leave a restaurant or pub in order to smoke (as in some countries in Europe) is unfair on the poor addicts. They have to sit outside in the cold, perhaps wet, night air to get their fix.

I really object to someone's smoke wafting over my food and drink!!

I started smoking (a pipe) when I was 17. I stopped - cold turkey - when I was 32, saying to myself "It's unhygienic, expensive, anti-social and possibly fatal."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Imagine a world where governments didn’t advocate selling poison for human consumption?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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