31 May 2019, Bangkok – As the world celebrates World No Tobacco Day with the theme Tobacco and Lung Health, the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), urges the global community to recall how, for decades, the public was kept in the dark on the harms caused on lung health by cigarettes; as this memory will help in addressing the revival of old tobacco tactics.
With new electronic smoking/ vaping products in their portfolio, the big tobacco companies, Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), are back in the sports (e.g Formula 1) and music scene (e.g. Rethink music). The transnational tobacco companies have invested billions in shaping public opinion to convey the “safer” nature of the product in line with their so-called “benevolent” corporate objectives, while keeping eerily silent about the problems that come with the nicotine devices: the harms caused by and addictive nature of the products, the teenage vaping epidemic & nicotine addiction, and the tobacco industry’s use of youthful social media influencers to market the devices.
Renowned tobacco historian Robert Proctor predicts a revival of the cigarette holocaust: “Big Tobacco has been purifying its business for several decades, moving to deliver nicotine in ever purer forms, creating ever more perfect engines of addiction. They now want us to believe their new “vaping” and “heat-not-burn” products are safer, and they want us to believe they are changing, but despite the rhetoric of “Unsmoke” and the like, they’re not giving up the big moneymakers, their super deadly (and defective) traditional cigarettes.” Proctor examined the tobacco industry’s internal documents, to expose an insidious conspiracy to block public knowledge of cancer-causing tobacco hazards through corporate capture of scientists and politicians. At present, Philip Morris’ submissions to the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and regulators reveal that its leading “alternative” product is not meant for quitting; while in its website, PMI styles itself as an anti-smoking champion (It’s Time to Unsmoke), and attempts to be part of the solution for public health by funding a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World that supports the new nicotine devices.
According to Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of GGTC, “Sinister history is being repeated here: tobacco companies’ current efforts recall previous decades when addictive and harmful products were sold through trendy advertising and clever corporate marketing that keeps the public ignorant about the harmful and addicting effects. The tobacco companies have yet to pay for the damage their products have caused; rather than being held accountable, they are instead increasing profits, both through cigarettes and e-cigarettes, at the expense of a generation addicted to nicotine. We must remember that the tobacco companies leave the sick for the governments to treat and the dead bodies for the families to bury. The deaths from the tobacco epidemic have been staggering and increasing, now 7 million a year; the next generation will see more deaths from vaping. The WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control is a global treaty that requires 181 countries in the world to protect public health policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry and to exact accountability from them. WNTD is a time for us to remember the cigarette holocaust and move towards concrete measures to make the tobacco industry pay.”
Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) aims to address the single greatest obstacle to tobacco control, tobacco industry interference. It is a joint initiative of the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). It is also key partner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products and has been designated as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat as the Knowledge Hub on Article 5.3, (treaty provision on countering tobacco industry interference).