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.
Keep sharing #JeffWeCan across all social media platforms.