ASH’s work is based on the principle that the behavior of the tobacco industry – producing, marketing, and selling addictive products that kill when use as intended – violates human rights, such as the right to health, that have been recognized at the highest level through international, regional, and national legal instruments.
(1) Phasing out the commercial sale of combustible tobacco products (aka Project Sunset),
(2) Using the law to hold the tobacco industry accountable,
(3) Using a human rights approach to advance tobacco control, and
(4) Promoting and strengthening global best practices to reduce tobacco use.
Combined, these programs will chip away at the tobacco industry from every angle to accelerate the end of the tobacco epidemic. Below, we celebrate our successes in each program in 2021.
Project Sunset: Phasing out the sale of commercial combustible tobacco products
ASH has served as a coordinating center to promote a tobacco endgame movement, providing expertise and support to partners around the world. Some examples of 2021 activities include:
ASH called on local, national, and foreign governments to plan to phase out the sale of commercial combustible tobacco products. The letter was co-signed by 148 organizations from 29 countries.
- On July 19, the Massachusetts Attorney General approved Brookline’s Tobacco-Free Generation (TFG) regulation, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2000. The approval was the last legal hurdle; the law immediately came into force.
- ASH supported the efforts of a vibrant and motivated Spanish public health movement that drafted and adopted a manifesto calling for Spain to end the tobacco epidemic by 2030 that helped the Spanish Ministry of Health during the review of the Spanish law.
- Thanks to the hard work of our New Zealand colleagues, their Ministry of Health proposed a Tobacco-Free Generation policy, retail density reduction, and nicotine reduction policy in December 2021. Read news on the announcement here>
- On January 1st, 2021, Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, CA implemented their tobacco sales bans. ASH has created case studies to share lessons learned in each city.
- A draft endgame ordinance was finalized for the city of South Pasadena, CA. The city council is expected to bring it up early in 2022.
- ASH served on a California working group to incorporate the Social Progress Index (SPI) into the state’s endgame planning and advocacy. The SPI is a human rights progress index.
- ASH serves on the California Endgame Advisory Committee.
- ASH launched a new website on California endgame with resources and details on our grant partners. Click here to visit the new site and see ASH’s social media Guide Sheets and training videos.
- ASH provided technical assistance to partners interested in tobacco endgame around the globe.
Using the law to hold the tobacco industry accountable for the harm they cause
Our joint lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw success as the FDA agreed to begin a rulemaking process to remove mentholated tobacco products from shelves. After more than a decade of inaction from the Federal government on menthol, on April 29th, the Biden Administration acted quickly and definitively to prioritize Black lives and to make progress towards ending the institutionalized racism African Americans face as a result of menthol cigarettes. The FDA emphasized in their statement that it “…intends to make this proposed rule one of the Agency’s highest priorities”; a priority we emphatically agree with. Read ASH’s full statement here>, Read our joint statement with Co-Plaintiffs here>, Read the outpouring of support from partners in public health here>
- Watch our joint webinar with all Co-Plaintiffs, the Public Health Law Center, and our legal representation following the April 29th announcement here>
- Our lawsuit against the FDA is ongoing. ASH and our co-plaintiffs (through our legal representation) requested that the court keep jurisdiction over this matter until a formal rule banning menthol is in place. The court agreed and will continue to monitor progress.
- ASH drafted an article on Criminal Liability for the 30th anniversary edition of the British Medical Journal, which will be published in 2022.
Using a human rights approach to advance tobacco control
ASH has been acting as a coordinating center to promote a human rights approach to advance tobacco control. Some activities and outcomes include:
- As a follow up to ASH’s support of a German campaign on human rights and tobacco that began several years ago, our partners were successful in getting the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to publish a list of recommendations for Germany to address tobacco.
- ASH submitted a tobacco centric report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). This work was done in collaboration with the DC Tobacco-Free Coalition and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and includes almost 100 signatories from the U.S. and abroad.
- ASH collaborated on several communications campaigns towards the Spanish President, Finance Ministry and other governing bodies to request a tax increase for tobacco products in Spain. A letter was also sent to the Baleares, as well as to all the other health leaders in the autonomous provinces, asking them to maintain smoke-free terraces and outdoor spaces. Several regions have responded positively to the request.
- ASH submitted to and coordinated the submissions of civil society to the Human Rights Council Intercessional meeting on human rights and the development agenda in the context of COVID. ASH has also coordinated and supported the submissions of multiple UN agencies (WHO, UNDP, FCTC Secretariat) to engage in this process.
- ASH and a group of our tobacco control colleagues, including Smoke Free Partnership and Unfairtobacco, led by the Belgian Alliance for a Smoke Free Society, submitted a document to the European Commission on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence.
- ASH and our colleagues submitted a response to a call for input on the latest draft on the new binding document on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.
- ASH led the drafting and joint submission by the tobacco control community to a request for input by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing that will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on how States can fulfill the rights of their citizens in regards to housing.
- ASH recorded and submitted an oral statement (virtually) to the Human Rights Council session during the 47thand 28th
- ASH also collaborated on a campaign denouncing Spain’s violation of international laws which prevent the interference of tobacco companies in public affairs. 150 organizations worldwide signed onto this letter. Read the statement here.
- ASH partnered with Corporate Accountability, STOP Partners and SEATCA to urge governments around the world to protect global policymaking from tobacco interference and to hold the tobacco industry accountable for its abuses ahead of the next WHO FCTC COP. Read the letter here.
- ASH staff wrote an article for the COP9 Bulletin, based on an interview with a high-level UN Development Program officer on the importance of funding treaties. Read it here.
- ASH staff wrote an article for the Medicus Mundi Switzerland Bulletin, titled: A human rights-based approach to tobacco control: How human rights can help end the tobacco epidemic in LMICs and around the world. Read it here.
Using global norms to move local communities toward a zero tobacco-use prevalence
- ASH received observer status to the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP). This will allow ASH to engage directly with the FCTC process.
- ASH was invited by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization to participate in the Regional Meeting on Strengthening Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) with the aim to increase the capacity for the implementation of the WHO FCTC Article 5, which covers comprehensive multisectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programs, national coordinating mechanisms for tobacco control, and protection of public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in the Region of the Americas, especially in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).
- ASH serves as Chair of the DC Tobacco Free Coalition.
- DC City Council passed the Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0020) on June 29 with a vote of eight to five. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the bill on July 22.
- ASH moderated and helped coordinate the DC Tobacco-Free Coalition’s virtual summit
- ASH, the International Centre for Tobacco Cessation (ICTC), and partners wrote a report on Cessation: The Right to Health. The report discusses the importance of access to cessation and argues that robust cessation support is a win-win for governments. Read the report here.
- ASH developed and launched an extensive Lobbyist and Lobbying Firm Registration Tracker for all 50 states plus DC. The Tracker, communications tools, and additional resources are available here.
- ASH launched our 2021 Tobacco Industry Interference Index here, noting the US’s poor performance compared to other countries.
ASH in the News
Key media articles quoting ASH or mentioning our work
- Bloomberg News: Health Groups Ask UN to Press US on Menthol Citing Race Issue
- The New York Times: FDA Announces Plan to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Tobacco
- The New York Times – Live Coverage: The FDA Plans to Ban Menthol Cigarettes
- The Washington Post: Ban on Menthol Cigarettes
- The Washington Post: FDA could begin ramping up tobacco regulation efforts
- Gothamist: Calls Grow In NY To Fully Outlaw Tobacco, As Federal Menthol Ban Looms
- The AP/ABC News: FDA Revives Federal Effort to Ban Menthol Cigarettes (broken link removed February 2023)
- Newsweek: Joe Biden – FDA Ban Menthol Cigarettes Smoking Tobacco Rules
- CNN: FDA moves to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars
- TIME: How One Massachusetts Town Could Shape the Future of Tobacco
British Medical Journal Blog:
- Monitoring and Exposing Tobacco Industry Interference in U.S. Public Policy
- Spain: Civil Rights and Public Health Organizations Press Government for a Tobacco Endgame by 2030
- ‘Commit to quit’: a goal for all, not only individual tobacco users
- Worldwide news and comment
Tobacco Induced Diseases Journal (TID):
- Educating the public and lawmakers about tobacco industry interference
- Mandatory environmental and human rights due diligence
- Women, tobacco, and human rights
- Women, tobacco and human rights in France
- Why menthol bans protect African Americans
- Mobilizing to overcome tobacco industry interference in lawmaking
- Can we achieve justice in health? Lessons from population health, human rights and the FCTC process
- Using communications to promote momentum toward tobacco endgame
- FCTC Article 2.1 and the next horizon in tobacco policy: Phasing out commercial sales
- WHO FCTC Article 19: Using the judicial system to fight tobacco
- Human rights and the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties
- The impact of COVID-19 on the WHO FCTC, cessation, and tobacco policy
- Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, California Make History for Public Health
- ASH Statement: U.S. Rejoins the World Health Organization
- ASH Statement for the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC)
- Statement from ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber on International Women’s Day
- 97 Organizations Agree, UN Human Rights Committee Must Address Menthol
- Statement on FDA’s Response in Favor of Banning Menthol
- Joint Statement: The FDA Agrees to Ban Menthol, To Protect African Americans
- 148 Organizations, Universities, and Cancer Centers Call for an End to Combustible Tobacco Sales
- Huber Statement: Brookline, MA Becomes 1st City in the U.S. to Ban Tobacco Sales to Anyone Born in the 21st Century
- Statement from Elizabeth Furgurson, COO of ASH in Support of DC’s Bill to Ban Flavors in Tobacco Products
- ASH Statement: Thanking the District of Columbia’s Mayor for Signing the Tobacco Product Flavor Ban Bill into Law
- Why Tobacco Still Matters
- Another Legal Blow to Big Tobacco
- The Impact of COVID-19 on ASH
- Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo – Webinar on Tobacco Endgame in Spain
- Why I Fight: For Regan and Paul
- Tobacco Companies Racially Discriminate Against Minorities
- The Tobacco Industry’s Impact on Child Exploitation Globally
- Opposing Goals: The Tobacco Industry vs. Public Health
- Hidden Costs: The Economic Burden of Cigarette Smoking on U.S. Healthcare Spending
- Councilmember John A Mirisch: “You can’t do that, can you?” “Yes, you can.” Why tobacco sales bans are good municipal policy
- Human Rights Day 2021: Reducing Inequities and Advancing Human Rights Through Tobacco Control
- WCTOH – Tobacco and Human Rights
- The ASH Webinar Series continues, with a lot of strong engagement and each new webinar recording posted here.
- 2020 Annual Report
- Statements from outside of ASH, Issued in Support of U.S. FDA’s Menthol Ban
- #AfterTobacco social media campaign, with graphics provided to and used by partner organization and Sunset Letter signatories.
- ASH was prominently featured on a partner’s podcast here.
- The tobacco industry has been getting bolder in their media campaigns, paying for ad space that looks like organic articles. ASH has been hitting back on social media (one example is here), with positive feedback from partners.
- Launch of ASH’s TikTok account, which went “viral” a few times, with our videos now having strong, regular engagement.