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Last Week Tonight: Irish Plain Packaging Cigarettes

John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight continued his original episode on the tobacco industry with this response.

Watch here>

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Temporary injunction bars man from lighting up inside his Washington home after neighbors sue

A temporary order by a Superior Court judge is keeping a man from smoking inside his home in the District of Columbia.

WJLA-TV (http://bit.ly/1BrlPLl ) reports that Edwin Gray’s next door neighbors in northeast Washington have filed a civil suit claiming they’re being harmed by smoke that sneaks into their home through a hole in the basement. They are seeking an injunction and $500,000 in damages.

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Corrective Ads Still Missing

**UPDATE**- On Friday, May 22, a federal appeals court issued a split ruling about what statements tobacco companies must make in product warnings. The three judge panel said that tobacco companies can be required to say they “intentionally designed cigarettes to sustain addiction” but can’t be required to say that they “deliberately deceived the public about the dangers of smoking.” This ruling could further delay the public release of the warning statements. Read more about the recent case here> and read more about the history of the case below.

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice sued several major tobacco companies including Altria, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard in a civil suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for fraudulent and unlawful conduct. court ruling

In 2006, after seven years, millions of documents, and a nine month trial in which 84 witnesses testified, the U.S. federal district court issued an opinion holding the tobacco companies liable for violating RICO by, among other things, fraudulently concealing the health risks associated with smoking and for marketing their products to children. In her decision, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found that “defendants have engaged in an overarching scheme to defraud smokers and potential smokers for more than 50 years…”

As part of the decision, the court ordered tobacco corporations to produce and release “corrective statements.” These statements, which would appear in newspapers, on TV, in retail displays, on websites and on cigarette packs, include corrective statements about the adverse health effects of smoking and second hand smoke, statements about addiction, and statements about the manipulation by tobacco companies of the designs of cigarettes. The tobacco companies filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In May 2009, the court unanimously upheld Judge Kessler’s decision, with a few modifications to the remedies.

It’s now 2015, and the tobacco corporations are still fighting this mandate. Just last month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in which the companies are asking the appeals court to set aside the corrective statements and craft new ones. The companies say that the preamble to the ads which states “A federal court has ruled that Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Philip Morris USA deliberately deceived the American public,” is overly broad and misleading. However, it is clear from the most recent Surgeon General’s Report and the RICO trial that tobacco corporations have misled the American public. You can see many of these documents in the Tobacco Documents Library.

Tobacco corporations continue to manufacture market and sell a product that will kill millions. Those same corporations use the court system to delay corrective statements which could save lives. It’s clear that civil litigation alone is not enough to deter tobacco corporations and their executives.

If you are interested in following the case, it is case 13-5028, U.S. versus Philip Morris USA.

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Time for the New “Normal” in Tobacco Packaging

Plain Packaging Should be Universal

Yesterday, Ireland became the first country in Europe and the second country in the world to pass legislation requiring plain packaging for tobacco products. Under the new rule, all forms of branding will be banned, including logos and colors. The packages will be covered with graphic warning labels and uniform brand names.

While the president still must sign the law within seven days, his support is expected. The move has been cheered by public health advocates around the world, and jeered by tobacco companies who have promised to sue to prevent or overturn the measure.

There is no doubt that plain packaging saves lives.[1] Australia passed plain packaging in 2011, and with the United Kingdom, France, and Finland also on the verge of taking action, this is the beginning of a positive new trend in the world. It also gives Ireland elite status in the battle against the tobacco epidemic.

Examples of Australian Plain Packaging

Examples of Australian Plain Packaging

More than a decade ago, Ireland began another trend as the first country to ban smoking in all indoor public and work spaces. At the time, critics said that Ireland’s “pub culture” would never accept the ban, but polls show that even smokers in Ireland can’t imagine going back to the way it was.

Today, 43 countries and hundreds of local jurisdictions have complete bans, protecting hundreds of millions of people from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke. In the next few years, we hope public indoor smoking bans will become the norm everywhere.

Plain packaging is the end result of a path that was started by Canada in 2001, when it implemented the world’s first graphic labels to help warn the public of the dangers of smoking. Since then, 76 jurisdictions have followed suit.[2]

In 2009, the United States attempted toFour countries – Pakistan, India, Nepal and Thailand – have graphic warnings that cover 85% of the package  surface. Graphic warnings are far more effective than textual warnings, especially among poor or illiterate populations. A new country adopts graphic warnings every few months, and soon it will be the norm around the world.

Spreading these public health trends worldwide will save hundreds of millions of lives this century, but we face two major obstacles – the tobacco industry, and the politicians they have bought and paid for.


Canada attempted to pass plain packaging in the 1990s, but backed down in the face of an industry lawsuit under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Before Australia passed its plain packaging law, Big Tobacco spent tens of millions of dollars in a publicity campaign to stop it. The government has since been sued by the tobacco industry in its domestic courts (the government has already won), under a bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong (ongoing), and by five countries (with legal costs partially paid for by the tobacco industry) under World Trade Organization rules (ongoing).

Graphic Warnings in India

Graphic Warnings in India

Several tobacco companies have already promised to sue Ireland.

Last year, Togo passed plain packaging but backed down after the threat of a trade lawsuit by Philip Morris International. Uruguay is being sued under an investment agreement for its packaging laws.

It is clear that the trend of most governments is to choose health and well-being over tobacco industry thuggery, but too many politicians, especially in the U.S., still fight hard for the wrong side.

The public health community needs to work harder to minimize the influence of the tobacco industry, shame decision makers who do their dirty work, and support governments doing the right thing.


Some Takeaway Messages:


To Ireland: Congratulations! Thank you for standing up to Big Tobacco!


To the tobacco industry: Shame on you once again. You know your products kill when used exactly as you intend.


To governments: Don’t let Big Tobacco intimidate you. Implement plain packaging and smoke-free air laws, and exempt tobacco from trade and investment agreements.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3ygACMbDbg&feature=youtu.be

[2] http://global.tobaccofreekids.org/files/pdfs/en/WL_status_report_en.pdf


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Ireland Passes Tobacco Plain Packaging Law

Dublin: Ireland has became the  second country in the world to pass a law introducing mandatory plain packaging for tobacco products, prompting the tobacco industry to threaten legal action.

It follows Australia’s introduction of similar plain packaging legislation in 2012.

Under Ireland’s new rules all forms of branding, including logos and colours will be banned and all products will have have a uniform packaging with graphic health warnings.

“We are creating legislation which will be historic and will be of real importance to the area of public health,” the Minister for Children James Reilly told parliament.

“We are on the verge of being the first country in the EU to pass a law on plain packaging. We are on the verge of being only the second country in the world to pass a plain packaging law,” he said before the bill passed.

The legislation had cross-party support and passed without a vote.

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Earlier this year Tel Aviv University’s School of Marketing, under pressure from the Israel Cancer Association, canceled an event sponsored by Philip Morris International.

Unfortunately, victories like this for public health are few and far between. The tobacco industry continues to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) to market its deadly products. These schemes range from youth smoking and prevention initiatives to education funding to health initiatives, and they are all designed to secure a positive impression of tobacco companies within their target consumer demographics.

Tobacco CSR is not “business as usual”

British American Tobacco (BAT) writes that “a Central part of being a sustainable business is operating with integrity and responsibility.” Interestingly enough, BAT, along with Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, count themselves among the current members of the Institute of Business Ethics).

Yet, as the World Health Organization has stated time and time again, there is an “inherent contradiction” between the tobacco industry and corporate responsibility.


Tobacco industry practices directly contradict real sustainable CSR programs. And tobacco corporations should not be included in any responsible business ethics entity.


This year ASH presented a letter to the American Red Cross urging them to discontinue their practice of accepting funding from the tobacco industry.

Civil society action can be a powerful tool as the Tel Aviv University event proves. That is why we will continue identifying NGOs, Universities, and other “responsible” public entities who give tobacco companies good PR by accepting their donations, and we will continue encouraging them to stop doing so.

Take Action with US

We encourage you to be a responsible supporter and find out if the organizations or universities you support receive tobacco money.  We also ask that you help ASH by sharing your findings with us on Twitter! Tweet your findings to us using the hashtag #stoptobaccotactics.

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Senator Warren calls Philip Morris on Abusive Trade Lawsuit.

By Senator Elizabeth Warren

The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt.

Read full Washington Post Opinion Piece>

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Statement from Executive Director on the 25th Anniversary of Smoke-free Skies

Smoke-free in the Skies, but not on the Ground

Just 25 years ago, smoking was a pervasive norm. People could smoke at work, in restaurants, and even on airplanes. Non-smokers were exposed to second hand smoke often and for extended periods of time.

Twenty five years ago today, a huge step was taken to help protect non-smokers from second hand smoke because second hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic or toxic. Those chemicals cause cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma attacks, and other respiratory problems.

On February 25, 1990, a federal law came into effect that made all domestic airline flights of six hours or less smoke-free. The law affected 15,972 of 16,000 domestic flights, and was a catalyst for more smoke-free air laws to come. The vast majority of airlines banned smoking on international flights as well.

Since 1990, when the domestic flight smoke-free air law came into force, much progress has been made. Smokefree Skies 2

California became the first state to eliminate smoking in bars in 1998, and many states followed with smoking bans in bars, hotels, restaurants, and workplaces.  In 2005, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first international public health treaty, entered into force. The FCTC requires its parties, 180 countries around the world, to protect their citizens from tobacco smoke. As a result, dozens of countries have now gone smoke-free. In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General produced a report declaring that the scientific debate around second-hand smoke was over; any degree of second-hand smoke is bad for your health.

Thanks to the work done by smoke-free airline advocates; we can now fly in airplanes without fear of being exposed to second hand smoke. Unfortunately, in much of the United States, people don’t have that same certainty of smoke-free air while they are on the ground. Only 24 U.S. states have 100% comprehensive smoke-free air laws, meaning there is no smoking in all non-hospitality workplaces, bars, and restaurants. While many municipalities in the other 26 states do have comprehensive smoke-free air laws, the smoke-free laws in those states are not as effective as they should be.

In 2010, in the United States, second hand smoke killed about 50,000 people. Worldwide, the death toll is more than 600,000 people each year. While we can celebrate that exposure to second hand smoke among US nonsmokers has declined, progress has not been the same for everyone.  According to the Center for Diseases Control exposure is more common among children ages 3 to 11 years, African Americans, people living below the poverty level, and those who rent housing.   The young and the poor are not adequately protected by smoke-free air laws.

On this anniversary of smoke-free flights, we applaud the progress that has been made on smoke-free air laws and appreciate all of the lives that have been saved by these laws. Yet, we also reflect on the tens of thousands of lives that remain in danger from second hand smoke across America.

We cannot wait another 25 years for all U.S. citizens to be protected from deadly second hand smoke.

Laurent Huber

Executive Director, Action on Smoking & Health

Learn More about the Smoke-free Skies Anniversary from American's for Non-Smoker's Rights

Learn More about the Smoke-free Skies Anniversary from American’s for Non-Smoker’s Rights

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Statement from ASH on the 25th Anniversary of Smoke-free Skies

The absence of smoking on commercial airliners is something we all now take for granted.  But it wasn’t always that way. The ban on smoking was the culmination of years of effort by many individuals and public health organizations fighting an industry that had held sway in the US Congress seemingly forever. Our job is not done until the last

About a year ago I attended a book signing by Congressman John Lewis and was last in a long line of people waiting for his autograph.  The book was “March: Book One” which tells the story of the congressman’s life-long involvement in the struggle for civil rights.  But as I presented my copy of the book, I thanked him for his role in another, perhaps less momentous struggle, but one that affected the health of millions of Americans, the ban on smoking on airlines.  I told him that I had appeared before his committee in October 1987 when Congress considered a ban on smoking on flights shorter than two hours.

“I will never forget that hearing,” he exclaimed “it was the longest in the history of the US Congress!”   It was indeed after midnight when I finally got my chance to speak.  That limited ban was approved and two years later, in June 1989, I again testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation chaired by Congressman James Oberstar.  This time we asked for a complete ban on smoking on all airline flights, regardless of duration.  And twenty –five years ago that ban went into effect.

For ASH and the public health community, the twenty-fifth anniversary is a cause for celebration but not for resting on our laurels; rather it ought to be a call to action. Far too many youngsters are still enticed into a life of addiction to tobacco, far too many people still do not work in a smoke-free environment and far too many people still suffer the terrible consequences of tobacco use.

Our job is not done until the last cigarette has been extinguished, until the lure of nicotine is something of the past, like smoking on airplanes.

Alfred Munzer, MD

Chair, Action on Smoking and Health

Learn More about the Smoke-free Skies Anniversary from American's for Non-Smoker's Rights

Learn More about the Smoke-free Skies Anniversary from American’s for Non-Smoker’s Rights

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What Flying Was Like Before the Smoke Cleared

If you think the air travel experience generally stinks now, consider what it was like before smoking was banned on domestic flights 25 years ago.

Tracy Sear, a flight attendant with US Airways, was looking over some Facebook posts from colleagues recalling those bad old days when a third or more of passengers on any flight puffed away, and cabins were foul with smoke. When I spoke with her the other day, she read one of those posts to me: “Suitcases, uniforms, hair — all stunk from cigarette smoke. And it’s astounding that we didn’t have more cabin fires.”

It’s probably difficult for anyone who isn’t middle-aged or older to comprehend, but people could smoke cigarettes on airplanes until Feb. 25, 1990. That’s when the federal government, after years of pressure from a union, the Association of Flight Attendants, finally banned smoking on all but a handful of domestic flights over six hours in duration. Ten years later, smoking was prohibited on flights between the United States and foreign destinations. Today, virtually every commercial flight in the world is smoke-free.

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Tobacco Giants Battle New Ads Painting Them As Liars

WASHINGTON (AP) — Never underestimate the staying power of big tobacco.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the nation’s largest cigarette makers to publicly admit that they had lied for decades about the dangers of smoking.

The basis for the punishment: Testimony from 162 witnesses, a nine-month bench trial and thousands of findings by the judge that defendants engaged in what the largest public health organizations in the country have called a massive campaign of fraud.

Bloodied but unbeaten, the tobacco companies have plunged into another courtroom battle in an effort to stave off the humiliation of having to underwrite an ad campaign in which they brand themselves as liars. Oral arguments are scheduled for Monday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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Florida Bill Seeks to Shield Tobacco Industry from Lawsuits

The powerful cigarette industry reignited Florida’s tobacco wars Wednesday with a one-sentence bill that would strip away the right of thousands of Florida victims from collecting millions in damages….

But for Bob Wilcox, 49, a Miami-Dade police lieutenant in the homicide bureau, the bill is an “outrageous” attempt to shield an industry that deserves to be punished for lying to people like his father, Cleston Roy “Red” Wilcox, a Marine veteran who died of lung cancer at age 70. Wilcox’s 91-year-old mother won a $15.5 million judgment in September, but is expecting an appeal. She has been a widow since her husband’s death in 1994. The family first filed the lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in 2007, and it took seven years to bring it to trial.

“I firmly believe they engaged in a practice of delay, delay, delay hoping my mother would die,” Wilcox told the Herald/Times. “I was lucky it was heard. How about all the other people who have passed away while their case has been delayed?”

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Japan Tobacco threatens Ireland over plain packaging

One of the world’s largest tobacco firms has told the Government to immediately halt plain packaging legislation in the Dáil or face a High Court claim for damages.

JTI Ireland, owner of the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, has told Ministers James Reilly and Leo Varadkar that it will take legal action if they fail to promise by Friday that no further steps will be taken to enact the draft law.

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John Oliver Gives PMI a Lesson in Marketing

Comedian John Oliver took on Philip Morris International (PMI) Sunday night on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.” ASH Policy Director Chris Bostic was privileged to see the taping in person. It is a hilarious and poignant piece, and the PR folks at PMI must have woken up dazed and confused today.

Oliver focused his attention on the tobacco industry’s use of litigation and the threat of litigation to bully governments away from aggressive anti-tobacco policies. One memorable bit came after Oliver revealed how PMI purchased a new subsidiary to take advantage of an obscure Hong Kong-Australia bilateral investment treaty in order to sue the latter over its plain packaging law. Oliver congratulated PMI’s attorneys for their cleverness, saying they deserved a “Pat on the back; then a punch in the gut.  A pat-punch, pat-punch.”

The highlight of the show comes at the end, when Oliver tries to come up with a compromise to allow governments to dissuade people from smoking while allowing PMI to market its brands. He then trots out “Jeff, the cowboy hat-wearing diseased lung,” an actual mascot who comes on stage to dance with a group of schoolchildren. John also shows videos of Jeff ads that were placed in Montivideo, Uruguay and locals wearing Jeff t-shirts in Togo, two countries that have also been recipients of PMI’s bullying tactics.

The Twitter hashtag #JeffWeCan trended to number one in just a few minutes as thousands of people around the world took up the call to action.


Thank you, John Oliver, for calling attention to the tobacco industry’s deadly, thugish tactics.

You can watch the segment for free here.

Keep sharing #JeffWeCan across all social media platforms.

And, sign up for Action Alerts from ASH to join the fight against Big Tobacco and their deadly tactics here>


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John Oliver takes on tobacco industry

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver exposed Big Tobacco’s international bullying tactics to target new and existing customers with their deadly products.

ASH supported their researchers in putting together this episode. Join the conversation online using #JeffWeCan

Watch the episode below.

Read ASH’s Response here>

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England bans smoking in cars with children

Drivers in England will be banned from smoking in their cars if they are carrying children as passengers.

The move, which will become law on 1 October, follows a similar ban in Wales and aims to protect young people under 18 from second-hand smoke. Scotland is also considering introducing a ban.

Anyone found flouting the law in England could be fined £50.

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Cambridge increases tobacco purchase age to 21; bans e-cigs from restaurants

The Cambridge City Council passed last week a series of controversial amendments to the Cambridge Tobacco Ordinance, including an increase in the purchase age to 21 years old and limits on smoking in public parks and use of e-cigarettes, our partners at Wicked Local reported Tuesday.

The new ordinance won’t be implemented until June 1 after councilors asked for a grace period to educate store owners who sell tobacco products.

“We would try to identify businesses, send them a letter, like we did with the no smoking in restaurants,” City Manager Richard Rossi said Thursday, Jan. 29. “We really worked with people to educate them rather than punishing them, initially.”

The existing tobacco ordinance was ratified in 2003 after a long stakeholder process, establishing restrictions on public use and purchase of tobacco.

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Increasing the Minimum Age

In the past few years, several localities have increased the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. The first to increase the minimum sales age to 21 was Needham, MA, a suburb of Boston, in 2005. Following implementation of the law, smoking rates among Needham high-school students dropped almost in half between 2006 and 2010, far outpacing the decline in surrounding communities. Read more here>min age 21

Several other localities have also increased the minimum age to 21. Recently, New York City became the largest jurisdiction by population to raise the age, and new age limits of 21 were recently approved in Suffolk County, NY and Hawaii County, HI.

Several states have also taken action. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah have increased their state minimum legal sale age for tobacco to 19. This work has paid off. Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the country (12.2% of the population). Alaska and New Jersey’s rates are below the national average. Notably, Alaska is the state with the most improved smoking rate, down 6.5% since 2008. Read more about smoking rates here>.

target video cover2Increasing the minimum legal age for tobacco products is important because the most recent data shows that the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day targeting young adults (ages 18 to 21) through a variety of marketing activities—such as music and sporting events, bar promotions, college marketing programs, college scholarships, and parties—because they know it is a critical time period for solidifying a tobacco addiction. Clearly, this tactic works -almost 40% of smokers either began smoking (11.0%) or became regular smokers (28.0%) during this key age range. Read more here>and here>.  For more information about how the tobacco industry targets kids and young adults, watch our video here>.

In a confidential memo, a Philip Morris strategist once wrote, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market (17-20).” From the examples shown by Needham, MA and by the states that have raised the age of purchase by even just one year, this appears to be very true.

Increasing the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase is an effective way to decrease smoking rates.

Several states including California and Washington are considering passing laws that would increase the minimum age to 21.

Which state will be the first to take this monumental step towards protecting their youth? Is your state considering raising the minimum age?

Stay up to date on the latest cities and states taking action, by visiting Tobacco 21>


***As of April 24, 2015, the Hawaii legislature has passed legislation that will make it the first state to increase the minimum legal age for tobacco purchase 21. The bill is now headed to the Governor. Congratulations to Hawaii and we hope that other states will follow suit!” See here>***

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Obama’s 10 new taxes

President Barack Obama’s latest budget is his most populist ever, seeking big tax hikes to pay for ambitious new spending on education and infrastructure in a dare to Republicans to find common ground.

Here are the biggest and boldest among his tax proposals. All estimates are for revenue raised or spent over 10 years.

9. TOBACCO TAX: The administration proposes to nearly double taxes on cigarettes and small cigars to about $1.95 per pack from about $1.01 per pack, and index the tax for inflation.

The hikes would pay for two politically powerful initiatives: an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program — which is due to end this year if Congress doesn’t extend funding — and Obama’s ongoing proposals to guarantee universal access to preschool.

Would raise $95 billion.

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California declares electronic cigarettes a health threat

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California health officials Wednesday declared electronic cigarettes a health threat that should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, joining other states and health advocates across the U.S. in seeking tighter controls as “vaping” grows in popularity.

The California Department of Public Health released a report saying e-cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine but acknowledging that more research needs to be done to determine the immediate and long-term health effects.

“E-cigarettes are not as harmful as conventional cigarettes, but e-cigarettes are not harmless” said California Health Officer Ron Chapman. “They are not safe.”

Read more>

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Tobacco sale ban for US campus shops

One of the world’s top universities is taking a smoking ban a step further this week, as Stanford University prohibits the sale of tobacco as well as smoking on campus.

Campus shops at the Californian university will have to end the sale of all tobacco products from 1 March.

Parts of the university already have an outdoor as well as indoor smoking ban.

The university says allowing tobacco sales is “inconsistent” with its work on promoting health.

It means that retail outlets, such as the students’ union and a petrol station, will have to stop selling tobacco – including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Read more>

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“We Have an Opportunity to Change History”

Health must become a priority. The time is now,” said global tobacco control advocates in the Framework Convention Alliance video. They emphasize the importance of this year, 2015, and that leaders must raise their ambitions for humanity. They also encourage the general public to stand up and speak out.

The global tobacco control community created this video for the Action/2015 campaign that launched on January 15th, 2015 and runs through September.

The Action/2015 campaign promotes ambitious global goals to target poverty, inequality, environmental destruction, and human development.

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly will finalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals, expiring this year. These new goals will set national development agendas for the next 15 years and beyond.

The tobacco control community aims to ensure the inclusion of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in the SDGs as one of the best methods to improve global health.

Health is a major part of sustainable development and must be highlighted in the post-2015 development agenda. Tobacco is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, killing over 6 million people a year. In the 20th century alone, tobacco use killed 100 million people. If we don’t take action, tobacco will kill 1 billion people this century. The majority of those projected deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries, now a main target of the tobacco industry, which has shifted its efforts as smoking rates have fallen in the developed world.

Governments can prevent these hundreds of millions of premature tobacco-related deaths by implementing the FCTC. The FCTC has 180 Parties, representing nearly 90% of the world’s population. This unique public health treaty includes low-cost policy measures that are proven to decrease tobacco use. Implementing the FCTC is globally recognized as the best of the “best buys” for tackling the fast-rising epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which cause nearly 2/3 of global deaths.

Specifically, the FCTC’s measures include raising tobacco taxes, a win-win solution for health, development, and governments. Higher taxes lead to reduced tobacco consumption, in turn cutting the damage, disease, and death caused by tobacco use. Increased tobacco taxes would also generate revenue for cash-strapped governments.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Shana Narula, Campaign Coordinator, narulas@ash.org.

Please consider supporting ASH’s work on the post-2015 development agenda by clicking here.

For more information:




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In Our View: Raise Smoking Age to 21

One of the strongest arguments in favor of raising the legal age for tobacco purchases inadvertently comes from the tobacco industry itself. In 1986, in a confidential memo, an executive for Philip Morris wrote, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market (17-20).”

It’s no secret that tobacco companies target young smokers, with the understanding that young smokers are likely to become lifelong smokers. Because of that, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is backing legislative efforts to raise the age for the purchase and use of tobacco in the state from 18 to 21. Such a change would mirror the minimum age for alcohol and marijuana and would make Washington the first state to implement a minimum age of 21 for tobacco use.

Certain municipalities across the country already have raised their smoking age to 21. In 2005, Needham, Mass., was the first to do so, and by 2012 the city’s high-school-age smoking rate had dropped by 50 percent. Results like that are inarguably positive and would be a boon to Washington. “For me, it’s really about helping these kids not have a lifetime of addiction, because that’s what they face,” said state Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the lead House sponsor of a bill to raise the minimum age.

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President Obama on Tobacco & Trade

Remarks by the President at Meeting of the Export Council

December 11, 2014

The big bugaboo that’s lifted up there is tobacco companies suing poorer countries to make sure that anti-smoking legislation is banned, or at least tying them up with so much litigation that ultimately smaller countries cave.

Those are issues that I think can be negotiated — there are some areas of particular sensitivity or concern.  But overall, the principle that we should make sure that U.S. companies, when they invest or export to other countries, are abiding with their safety rules but that those public health and safety rules are not being discriminatorily applied or a ruse in order to keep us out.  That should be something everybody is in favor of.

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Dirty Money

Why charities should not let Big Tobacco use them for marketing.

Earlier this month, a journalist caused a stir among health charities by publicizing the fact that the American Red Cross accepts donations from the tobacco industry and allows the Red Cross symbol to be used on industry websites and vice-versa.

Altria on ARC’s Website

The immediate conversation is the tarnishing of the well-earned positive reputation of the Red Cross, which no doubt uses the money for good. The broader conversation is whether it is ever acceptable for a charity to accept voluntary donations from the tobacco industry.

For us here at ASH, and for many of our partners around the globe, the answer is a resounding “NO”. But people of good conscience can legitimately ask why. Why not use this ill-begotten money to do some good?

Here is the short answer: because it kills people. That is a bit glib, but let me explain.

The tobacco industry does not give to charity out of the goodness of its heart. If they had any heart at all, they would immediately cease their activities, since their products kill half of their long-term customers. For tobacco companies like Altria, donations are a part of marketing.

Altria and other cigarette makers know they have a lousy reputation. Boasting about their charitable giving introduces another side to the story, making it seem less black and white.

It gives cover to tobacco-friendly politicians, increasing the chances that tobacco industries get a seat at the table when health policy is discussed. And, in a world that is increasingly banning traditional forms of tobacco advertising, it is another way to get their name and brand out there, often in association with “good” organizations.

PMI donations

The “vector” of the global tobacco epidemic is the tobacco industry, and the way the disease is spread is through marketing. When a charity accepts tobacco money, it assists with tobacco marketing, and therefore helps spread the disease.

The incompatibility of tobacco money and the public interest has been widely recognized.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stopped accepting tobacco donations years ago, and most national branches have followed suit. The World Health Organization and the United Nations agree. And this is a key aspect of the legally-binding WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The only time that money acquired through selling tobacco can be used for good is when that money has been taken from tobacco companies against their will, whether through taxes, fines, or legal settlements.


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