Statement from STOP, a Global Tobacco Industry Watchdog
(New York, October 11, 2021) — STOP supports the declaration rejecting tobacco industry interference and supporting pandemic recovery at the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). COP9 is a global gathering of government delegations to advance the world’s first health treaty, the WHO FCTC. The declaration, which is widely supported, emphasizes accelerating implementation of the treaty.
The tobacco industry makes and sells addictive products that kill more than 8 million people a year yet tries to cast itself as a partner in health. Delegations should not be misled by pharmaceutical company acquisitions, distracting messages about electronic products and donations for COVID-19 relief. The damage the tobacco industry causes far outweighs token gestures and PR spin.
Our monitoring and research show that, while people and economies around the world suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, the tobacco industry sought to benefit. An industry that makes billions of dollars in profits every year from selling cigarettes asked governments for tax breaks. It asked to be treated as an essential business, supporting cigarette sales even though research finds that tobacco use increases the risk of hospitalization with COVID-19 by 60-80 percent and significantly increases the risk of death from the virus.
Accelerating an end to the tobacco epidemic is integral to emerging from the pandemic stronger and healthier. There has never been a better time to implement lifesaving measures to reduce tobacco use and to hold the industry accountable for the harm it causes, including at least US $1.85 trillion in annual economic losses.
Governments can help fund COVID-19 recovery by increasing taxes on tobacco and related products and implementing other financial measures. At a minimum, they should stop giving tax breaks to the tobacco industry and exclude it from policy making across all government departments.
These measures are encapsulated in the WHO FCTC, which represents truly global consensus on evidence-based methods of reducing tobacco use and resulting harm. The industry and its allies denigrate the treaty even while they interfere with its implementation, because evidence from around the world proves that implementing the treaty significantly reduces tobacco use. It is a path to saving lives, and a threat to the industry’s business interests. If COVID has shown the world anything, it is that health matters—socially and economically. It’s time to put health before the tobacco industry’s vested interests.
Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.
STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Vital Strategies. For more information, visit exposetobacco.org.