What You Don’t Know is Killing Us: Learn the Issues

What You Don’t Know is Killing Us: Learn the Issues

You don’t have to use tobacco products to be negatively affected by the tobacco industry. Even though the health harms of tobacco are well-known and well-documented, the industry’s insidious practices reach much further. These companies go to great lengths to hide that they continue to make people sick, harm economies, exacerbate inequity, degrade the environment and more. Because when people can’t see what’s happening behind the curtain, the industry can continue with business as usual.

At STOP, we lay out the key issues so that you have the research and resources to help hold the tobacco industry accountable, whether your focus is on health, public policy, the environment, human rights or another of the many areas Big Tobacco meddles in.

Environmental Harm

Cigarette butts are the most littered item on the planet. But that’s only a portion of the environmental harm that the industry causes. Growing tobacco contributes to deforestation and soil degradation, manufacturing requires intense energy use and, in addition to cigarette butt litter, we’re now facing a potential waste crisis as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are discarded. What’s worse, the industry may be using sustainability-focused corporate social responsibility activities to try to distract from these harms.


Due to racism and other forms of systemic bias, millions of people around the world face barriers to getting what they need to thrive, such as access to health care and economic opportunity. The tobacco industry makes these inequities even worse. Tobacco companies target groups already burdened by the effects of systemic discrimination, such as Black Americans, indigenous populations and the global LGBTQ+ community, with products that cause illness and financial hardship.

Next Generation Addiction

The truth facing Big Tobacco is bleak: If the tobacco industry doesn’t actively recruit new users to replace its customers who have died from using its products, it will go out of business. One of the reasons the tobacco industry targets communities it can exploit, including youth, is to addict a new generation of customers. Big Tobacco openly acknowledges the health harms of tobacco use, yet it continues to advertise cigarettes around the world. More recently, the industry has also tried to launder its sullied reputation by creating the illusion that its newer tobacco and nicotine products, including heated tobacco products, are safer—despite a lack of evidence.

Industry Marketing

The tobacco industry has a marketing playbook that’s time-tested and effective at hooking new customers on its addictive and harmful products. Tobacco industry marketing takes the form of blatant ads on billboards and in magazines, influencers touting its products on social media, sports and arts sponsorships and more. And now, tobacco promotion on digital channels, such as streaming platforms, threatens to expose even wider (and younger) audiences to tobacco products.

Sabotaging Policy

While tobacco companies try to convince us that they’ve changed and that they care about a better future, behind the scenes they still often viciously interfere with any progress that may hurt their bottom lines. They do this by claiming to be allies in public health and asking to have a seat at the policymaking table—while at the same time actively working to delay or dismantle evidence-based policies that governments use to safeguard their populations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which sets clear guidelines to prevent tobacco industry interference in policy, is the most powerful tool to keep Big Tobacco out of policy. Tobacco companies often declare their support for the FCTC, perhaps to soften the blow when they undermine it with their brazen attempts to subvert policies that save lives. Big Tobacco’s end game? Profits over public health.

What you don’t know is killing us

Everyone, whether they use tobacco or not, is harmed by Big Tobacco. And it’ll take a collective effort across a variety of sectors to address these issues and hold the tobacco industry accountable. Join STOP in pulling back the curtain and exposing the industry’s nefarious practices that it tries so hard to keep hidden. Everyone has a role. Learn more and see how you can take action today.