With new electronic products and COVID-19, the tobacco industry poses new risks to efforts to reduce tobacco use

With new electronic products and COVID-19, the tobacco industry poses new risks to efforts to reduce tobacco use

Statement from STOP on the launch of the World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2021

(New York, July 27, 2021) – STOP, a tobacco industry watchdog, today pointed to the World Health Organization’s new Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2021 as further evidence of the need to protect heath policy from tobacco industry interference. While confirming that 5.3 billion people are covered by at least one of the WHO-recommended MPOWER measures to reduce tobacco use, the report notes that progress in some areas, like tobacco taxation, is slow and there are some examples of progress being reversed.

Even with one billion smokers around the world, evidence that tobacco use is declining has seen the industry revert to an old tactic: introducing new products and promising that they are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. For the first time, the WHO report also measures regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and related tobacco and nicotine products. These products are not risk-free and may be a gateway for youth to start smoking tobacco, yet WHO finds that 84 countries have not acted to regulate them.

Dr. Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union, a partner in STOP, said: “The tobacco industry needs to recruit new customers to survive. Tobacco companies claim they’re not targeting non-smokers, yet they produce youth-friendly flavors and use social media platforms and influencers that appeal to young consumers. At STOP, we’re working to expose the companies using these products to mislead the public and meddle in health policy. Policymakers failing to regulate these products may be undermining efforts to protect the health of future generations.”

In addition, this eighth edition of the report examines tobacco industry interference in policymaking and how the industry has sought to exploit the context created by the COVID-19 global pandemic—both are areas monitored by STOP.

Mary Assunta, Head of Global Research and Advocacy at the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), a Partner in STOP, said: “The tobacco industry’s opportunism has been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from funding discredited research seeking to claim that smoking has a protective effect, to paying a pittance on so-called corporate social responsibility activities that help secure goodwill and access to senior policymakers. We’ve even seen the industry succeed in having its products—that harm lung health and are associated with worse COVID outcomes—declared “essential products” in some countries. We urge governments to hold the industry accountable and make #TobaccoPayUp, instead.”

More information on the tobacco industry’s Crooked Nine tactics, referenced in the report, the industry’s activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it seeks to interfere in policy around the globe is available on the STOP website.

Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.

About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

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 BathThe 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.