July 8, 2015 – Senators Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, and Jeffrey A. Merkley sent a letter to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, calling on him “to reconsider and to refocus” the Chamber’s efforts “in a more positive direction.”
Earlier this month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that tobacco and cigarette consumption in Australia have dropped dramatically. Household tobacco consumption and expenditure volume has dropped 17.5% in the last two and a half years.
This extraordinary decline can be linked to two things.
First, Australia has increased taxes twice over the past two years. This connection is not a surprise; taxes have been proven as an extremely effective way to decrease tobacco consumption. But the second implementation is groundbreaking. In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to implement standardized (or plain) packaging.
Standardized packaging, also known as plain packaging, refers to tobacco product packaging that is required by law to remove all branding, including colors, images, logos and trademarks. Tobacco corporations are allowed to print only the brand name on the packs, and the name must meet requirements for size, font and placement. The rest of the pack is dedicated to health warnings and other required information.
The goal is to ban colorful, glamorous and exciting tobacco product packaging that so often targets and appeals to young people.
There have been arguments from the tobacco industry that standardized packaging doesn’t work. They argue that it will lead to an increase in illicit sales because it will be easier to counterfeit the packages. In Australia, this has been proven to be extremely exaggerated. Read more here>.
Furthermore, tobacco companies argue that standardized packaging does not decrease smoking. But, the numbers speak for themselves. Australia has clearly proven the tobacco industry wrong.
Several countries, including Ireland, England and Scotland, are working to implement standardized packaging in their countries as well.
We hope that Ireland, England, Scotland and many other countries will follow Australia’s lead to implement standardized packaging and dramatic decrease tobacco consumption. Follow ASH’s blog and news updates for the latest on standardized packaging around the world.
An article written by ASH Staff Attorney Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy was recently published in the American Bar Association’s “International Law News.” The article discusses the growing problem of tobacco use in Latin American countries.
There are 145 million current smokers in Latin America, more than half of whom will die from smoking related causes. Many of the countries in Latin America have signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which implements best practices to effectively reduce tobacco use. Yet, many of these countries are failing to live up to the obligations of this treaty.
In failing to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco, countries are violating international human rights laws.
A suit could be filed within the Inter-American system on the basis of human rights violations, as a more concrete step to stop this epidemic. A suit filed in the Inter-American court, a regional human rights court, could be based on the violation of the right to health and could include violations of other rights such as the right to life, women’s rights and child rights. There are other options as well: an argument could be made that tobacco control laws do not provide equal protection for particularly vulnerable groups (for example, children).
A case in the Inter-American system would draw worldwide attention to tobacco as a human rights issue and could have a huge impact on the fight against tobacco in Latin America and around the world.
To read the entire article in ABA’s “International Law News”, click here>.
To read more about ASH’s work in criminal liability and potential human rights litigation, click here>
To read more about tobacco and human rights, click here>
If you have questions or would like more information please contact ASH Staff Attorney Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy at email@example.com.
Marlboro’s “Be Marlboro” campaign is in the news again – this time because of a copyright claim.
Since 2011, Philip Morris International (PMI), which owns the Marlboro brand, has been running its “Be Marlboro” campaign in several countries. The ads depict parties, clubs, sports and other images clearly targeted at young people, while telling the audience “Don’t Be A Maybe.” The campaign and the major promotional events associated with it are a desperate attempt by the corporation to prevent PMI’s decreasing sales from continuing to decline.
Recently, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids compiled Marlboro marketing videos and uploaded them, without any editing, to Vimeo, a video sharing website. The videos were taken down, because Philip Morris claims they are a copyright infringement. Read more about it here>.
The most recent data shows that the tobacco industry spends more than $1 million a day in the U.S. targeting young adults. In addition to the “Be Marlboro” campaign run in over 60 foreign countries, the industry’s ongoing marketing tactics include using corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a way to market. For example, PMI donates to the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club, the Kennedy Center, and Ford’s Theatre. See more about tobacco CSR here>. But when organizations try to show how dangerous that marketing can be, Philip Morris uses its lawyers to prevent them from sharing the truth.
ASH, along with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, recently organized a flash mob with Jeff the Diseased Lung, the character created by HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (shown below).
The flash mob, which took place the same day as PMI’s shareholders meeting, was intended to use fun, dance, and social media to draw attention to PMI’s marketing tactics. It also provided a chance for more than 50 youth and young adult advocates from across the U.S. to make a united, public statement that they won’t be manipulated into using tobacco by PMI’s marketing.
You can watch a video of the flash mob here, or find it on social media using #JeffWeCan and #StopMarlboro:
ASH also produced a video that illustrates how tobacco companies target youth:
Watch John Oliver discuss some of PMI’s other legal tactics and introduce Jeff the Diseased Lung:
The UN’s post-2015 development goal process is still in full swing. Member states have spent the last week discussing ways to finance the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Raising tobacco taxes to fund development work is a win for tobacco control, a win for public health, and a win for development!
Tobacco taxes have been recognized by Jeffrey Sachs (a highly respected economist) and his team from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in their new report on financing sustainable development. The SDSN makes recommendations on various SDG matters.
ASH submitted suggestions to the first draft of this SDSN document in which tobacco taxes were not a major focus. Now, tobacco taxes are included in the paper, front and center. There are several crucial references, demonstrating that tobacco taxes cause a reduction of tobacco consumption, improve overall health, and can be a source of revenue for governments.
Member states will review and consider this document when drafting the final version of the Addis Accord – the resulting outcome of the Financing for Development (Ffd) meeting in Ethiopia this July.
We will continue advocating for the inclusion of tobacco control in the post-2015 UN development agenda which will benefit the entire public health community.
The SDSN report is available here>
Most people view cigarettes as a health problem, but they are a huge environmental problem as well. The entire life cycle of a cigarette has an impact on the environment – from growing the tobacco to throwing away the butt.
Tobacco cultivation is responsible for a myriad of environmental problems, including land and water pollution due to pesticides as well as deforestation. Tobacco plants are prone to many insect pests, and therefore tobacco farmers are forced to use pesticides to keep the plants healthy. Not only do tobacco growers often get sick from the pesticides, but the pesticides also leach into the soil and water.
Tobacco growth and cultivation also causes deforestation. Trees are often cut down to make room for tobacco plants. Once tobacco plants have been harvested, they are “cured.” Sometimes the curing is done by air drying, but often tobacco is cured by burning wood to heat the air, which speeds up the process.
It’s estimated that 600 million trees are cut down every year to produce tobacco products and cigarette-manufacturing machines use up to four miles of paper an hour to roll and package cigarettes.
To read more about tobacco farming click here>
As mentioned above, tobacco cultivation is a source of air pollution. But cigarettes also have a significant effect on air pollution while they are being smoked. When cigarettes are burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are poisonous.
A study in Italy found that cigarettes release 10 times as much particulate matter into the air as a diesel engine. Smoke from cigarettes and from tobacco cultivation is contributing to climate change.
It’s well established that second hand smoke is extremely dangerous. It should be considered an environmental problem as well as a public health concern.
In 2009, tobacco products—primarily cigarette butts— comprised nearly 38% of all collected litter items from roadways and streets. In 2010, over one million (1,181,589) cigarettes or cigarette filters—enough to fill 94,626 packs—were removed from American beaches and inland waterways. Cigarette butts are toxic to animals and children that may swallow them, they pollute groundwater, and they leach chemicals into soil. Compounding this problem is the waste from other items related to smoking such as cigarette packages and lighters or matches. Cigarette butts and other tobacco-related trash are a massive environmental problem.
What can you do?
– not only is it good for your health, it’s good for the environment!
Become an Advocate
– Communities across the United States are beginning to take action against tobacco waste. Contact your local, state, or federal officials and voice your opinion on tobacco waste!
Utilize your Network
– help educate your network and the public about the environmental harms of tobacco by sharing this and other information, especially on Twitter or Facebook using this sample message:
This #EarthDay, learn how unforeseen consequences of tobacco can cause so much harm: ash.org/earthday2015 #StandWithHealth @ASHOrg