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New Global Fund to Help Countries Defend Smoking Laws

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday that they had started a global fund to help low- and middle-income countries fight legal challenges to their smoking laws by the tobacco industry.

The fund is modest, at least so far, with a total of $4 million from the two charities. But Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the financial data and news company Bloomberg LP, said in a conference call with reporters that the investment was more like an initial marker, and that it was expected to grow as more donors joined the effort.

“The fact that there is a fund dedicated to taking on the tobacco companies in court sends a message that they are not going to get a free ride,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If they say that’s not a lot of money — yes, well, take a look at who’s behind it.”

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ASH participates in the World Conference on Tobacco or Health 2015

This week, several representatives of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) will be attending the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi. WCTOH is a five-day scientific conference where presenters highlight the latest developments in tobacco control and the efforts around the world to reduce tobacco use. wctoh 1

This year, the conference theme is “Tobacco and Non-Communicable Diseases.” Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death globally and the one risk factor common to the major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

This theme is particularly relevant to ASH’s work. ASH is a member of the DC-based NCD roundtable, an organization that works to ensure the inclusion of NCD’s in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals.

ASH’s campaign at the United Nations resulted in the inclusion of tobacco control in the draft of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ASH continues working to ensure that tobacco control remains in the final draft of the SDGs, which will be adopted in September of this year. Read more about ASH’s work with SDG’s here>.

Many other important tobacco control topics will be presented and discussed at WCTOH. In addition to NCDs, ASH will be participating in panel discussions on illicit trade and access to minors, tobacco endgame strategies, civil society involvement, tobacco and trade agreements, liability, and human rights. In particular, ASH Executive Director, Laurent Huber, will be speaking at a plenary session regarding the 10 year anniversary of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

ASH looks forward to a productive week of presentations and discussions with key stakeholders in the field of tobacco control. Follow us throughout the week as we tweet about the conference via @AshOrg, or follow all of the conference activity on twitter with #WCTOH2015.

For those attending WCTOH2015 or planning to watch the live webcast, you can see ASH presentations at the following panels:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Main Plenary 2- Ten Years of the WHO FCTC (Powerpoint Slides)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

No. 07- Innovative Approaches to the Endgame for Tobacco

No. 22- Social Marketing to Change Behavior in Non-Communicable Diseases

No. 29- Can Tobacco Executives Be Held Criminally Liable for the Tobacco-Related Deaths of their Customers?  (Powerpoint for Panel)

Friday, March 20, 2015

No. 36- Integrating Tobacco Control and NCDs in the Sustainable Development Framework

No. 49- Treatment of Tobacco in 21st Century Trade and Investment Rules (Powerpoint for Panel)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Meet the Expert Session- Meet Mr Huber to discuss:  The FCA–using its network to keep tobacco control high on the post-2015 development agenda.

No. 63- Human Rights Based Approach to Tobacco Control

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Resources: Criminal Liability for Tobacco Executives

ASH Resources

Blog: If Drug Dealers Can Be Found Criminally Liable, Can Big Tobacco?

Description: Drug dealers can and have been charged with murder or manslaughter when death results from the drugs they sold. This same logic could apply to Big Tobacco.

Quote:  The inevitable question is then- Do you think that tobacco companies could be held criminally responsible for the tobacco-related deaths of their customers?”

Journal Articles

Corporations that Kill: The Criminal Liability of Tobacco Manufacturers

Description: An overview of the concept and the law behind criminal liability, from an Australian criminal law journal.

Quote: “A reasonable company, upon discovering that its products posed a serious threat of death or injury, would either withdraw those products from sale or would render them safe. Clearly, tobacco manufacturers have taken no such steps and, in fact, continue to promote their products and to manufacture them in ways which make it more likely that people will become addicted to them. In doing so, they pose a high risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the public and a jury may find that such conduct, in the circumstances, merits criminal punishment.”

The death toll from tobacco: a crime against humanity?

Description: A Tobacco Control Journal letter to the editor that discusses the possibility that the deaths caused by tobacco corporations could be considered a crime against humanity and tried in the International Criminal Court

Quote: “Based on current trends, WHO estimates that the death toll from smoking will rise to 10 million people per year by the year 2025. No other consumer product in the history of the world has come even close to inflicting this degree of harm on the world community. If anything else posed a threat to life of this magnitude, whether human induced or naturally occurring—be it world war, genocide or “ethnic cleansing”, natural disaster, or disease—it would demand immediate international action.”

Newspaper Articles

What Penalty for Purveyors of Death?

Description: An L.A. Times article discussing potential criminal liability in the United States.

Quote: “Since more than a quarter of a century of public health warnings, trumped by many billions of dollars more in tobacco marketing, have not slowed the body count, what must a country do? On paper, America values human life over profit.”

Organized Tobacco’s Days Are Numbered

Description: A Jerusalem Post Article in which Amos Hausner, son of Gideon Hausner (who prosecuted Nazi Adolf Eichmann) states discusses the end of tobacco, including potential charges of crimes against humanity.

Quote: “’Today, we are in the midst of an irreversible process that will lead to the termination of organized tobacco,’ he said. ‘The environment will be completely tobacco-free. This is what people all over the world want.’”

Obama impressed with progress in Mujica’s Uruguay

Description: President Obama and President Mujica met to discuss, among other things, tobacco and the ongoing lawsuit between Uruguay and Philip Morris.

Quote: “In the world, eight million people die each year from smoking tobacco,” he said. This is mass murder.”

BP Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Description: This L.A. Times article discusses the BP Oil spill case, particularly the charges of corporate manslaughter that resulted from the deaths of several workers. This could be very similar to charges levied against Big Tobacco.

Quote: “The agreement, announced in November, allowed a unit of the London-based oil giant to plead guilty Tuesday to 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter in connection with the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the gulf.”

Relevant Case Law

Evans v. Lorillard (465 Mass. 411 (2013))

Description: A wrongful death lawsuit based on breached implied warranty of merchantability due to design defect. The plaintiff, the son of a deceased smoker, won the case.

Quote: “We decline to place addictive chemicals outside the reach of product liability and give them special protection akin to immunity based solely on the strength of their addictive qualities. To do so would eliminate any incentive for cigarette manufacturers to make safer perhaps the most dangerous product lawfully sold in the market through reasonable alternative designs.” [emphasis added]

Williams v. Philip Morris, Inc., 127 P.3d 1165, 1176-77 (2006)

Description: The widow of a smoker who died from lung cancer  sued Philip Morris USA for fraud based on advertisements and sponsored studies that made cigarettes seem less dangerous than they actually were. The widow won the case.

Quote:  “Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, Philip Morris’s actions, under the criminal statutes in place at the beginning of its scheme in 1954, would have constituted manslaughter.  Today, its actions would constitute at least second-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony…Thus, the possibility of severe criminal sanctions, both for any individual who participated and for the corporation generally, put Philip Morris on notice that Oregon would take such conduct very seriously.”

Haglund v. Philip Morris (847 N.E. 2d 315 (2006))

Description:  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the tobacco industry’s argument that a smoker is responsible for their own smoking habits (the “blame the smoker” defense.  In Massachusetts, the personal choice defense is unavailable to the tobacco companies.

Quote: “If Philip Morris chooses to market an inherently dangerous product, it is at the very least perverse to allow the company to escape liability by showing only that its product was used for its ordinary purpose.”

Laws and Definitions


Description: the definition of manslaughter under the U.S. federal code

Quote: “Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. Involuntary—in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.”

Right to life

Description: the definition of “right to life” is found in several international documents. This definition is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Quote: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”

Right to health

Description: the definition of “right to health” is also found in numerous international documents. This quote is part of the definition found in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Quote: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Crimes against Humanity

Description: the definition of “crimes against humanity” is also found in several international documents. This is the description as it applies to the International Criminal Court.

Quote: “Crimes against humanity” include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack…murder…other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.”


Mock Trial- Australia: lawyers ponder tobacco firms’ criminal liability

Description: Could tobacco companies be held criminally liable for their conduct, even if it were accepted that they have complied fully with all laws relating specifically to tobacco? A mock trial was conducted on this topic by universities in Australia.

Quote:  “Of particular interest were two issues: whether the argument about criminality depends on showing that the industry has acted in ways beyond that covered by tobacco legislation and regulations—such as by engineering the product so as to make it more attractive or more addictive, or failing to offer assistance, such as cessation programmes, to people it has addicted as children; and just how far the line of criminality might run—perhaps through to company directors, advertisers, marketing executives, and lawyers.”

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Plain Packaging for Tobacco Will Become the Global Norm


Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org


But will the U.S. be last?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 12, 2015 – Yesterday, Britain’s House of Commons overwhelmingly approved a law requiring plain packaging for tobacco products, just one day after Ireland’s president signed into law the same measure. If the House of Lord’s also approves, as it is expected to on Monday, the number of countries requiring plain packaging will have tripled in one week (Australia introduced their law in 2011). Scotland, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand, among others, are expected to follow suit, and the European Union as a whole is also considering the measure. But, while plain packaging is proven to decrease smoking, don’t expect similar legislation in the United States any time soon.

Plain – or standardized – packaging is a big victory for public health, and a huge blow to Big Tobacco, whose stock prices have tumbled this week. Tobacco kills over 6 million people each year, and the vector of the tobacco epidemic is tobacco industry marketing. As more and more countries have banned all other forms of tobacco advertising, plain packaging removes the last tiny billboard the tobacco industry can use to push its deadly products. Studies in Australia have shown that plain packaging is effective in convincing smokers to quit and keeping youth from starting.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., we are stuck with tiny, side-of-package textual warnings developed in the 1960s and not updated since 1984. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration attempted to introduce graphic warnings in 2011, but they were struck down after tobacco companies sued in federal court. The FDA says they will try again, but almost four years later there has been no progress.

Tobacco stock prices have tumbled this week amid the news from Ireland and England. Philip Morris International (PM) has dropped 4.17%, while R.J. Reynolds (RAI) and Altria (MO) have dropped 6.79% and 5.77%, respectively. UK-based British American Tobacco (BTI) and Imperial (ITYBY) fell over 5%.

Ireland and England are braced for the inevitable lawsuits. Australia successfully defended their plain packaging law in their supreme court but is still mired in international trade lawsuits from Philip Morris International and five countries under World Trade Organization rules. Some of the legal costs for those countries challenging Australia are being paid by tobacco companies, as detailed on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Japan Tobacco, Imperial, and Philip Morris International have promised to sue Ireland and England, likely both domestically and through trade agreements.

The public health community has called for tobacco to be exempted from trade agreements in order to stop the tobacco industry from being able to launch trade disputes over health regulations. The U.S. is considering the unique treatment of tobacco in the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, but politicians from tobacco-growing states are demanding that tobacco companies retain the right to sue governments to block public health legislation.

As more countries implement plain packaging as well as tobacco exemptions in trade agreements, the world will be able to reverse the tobacco epidemic and reduce the estimated 1 billion tobacco-related deaths this century.


Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization dedicated to health for all. ASH was formed in 1967 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General Report in order to use legal action to fight tobacco and protect nonsmokers. Today, because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH uses global tools to counter the global tobacco epidemic. Learn more about our programs at www.ash.org.

Follow us on Twitter @ASHOrg and Facebook.

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Breaking News: MPs back standardised cigarette packaging

MPs have voted in favour of introducing standardised packaging for cigarettes in the UK.

It means from 2016 every packet will look the same except for the make and brand name, with graphic photos accompanying health warnings if the House of Lords also approves the move.

The Irish Republic passed a similar law earlier this month and Australia has had plain packaging since 2012.

Read more>

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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.

Read More>

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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.”

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