The Tobacco Industry is Exploiting the COVID-19 Crisis
Tobacco companies as well as tobacco and e-cigarette industry associations are shamefully exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to boost corporate brands and to sell deadly products.
Tobacco companies will stop at nothing to sell more products, even if it means capitalizing on a pandemic. Never has it been more important for the public and policymakers to see the tobacco industry for what it is: an industry of death and disease. Make sure decision-makers and public health advocates know how the tobacco industry is exploiting the COVID-19 crisis and help us identify tobacco industry activity by sharing this on social media today.
The coronavirus attacks the lungs and behaviors that weaken the lungs put individuals at greater risk. The harmful impact of smoking on the lungs is well-documented, and there is a growing body of evidence that e-cigarette use (vaping) can also harm lung health. Unsurprisingly there is mounting concern among leading public health organizations and experts that smokers and e-cigarette users may be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Despite this concern, in recent weeks around the world we have observed disturbing tobacco and e-cigarette industry trends:
- Marketing – In many countries, the tobacco industry is using references to COVID-19 (explicitly mentioning the virus and/or using references such as “quarantine” or “stay at home”) to market their products. Promotional campaigns have also been observed to offer free delivery and contest prizes that encourage sharing tobacco product marketing campaigns online. Tobacco product promotional campaigns using COVID-19 references have been observed online (example: promotion in the Czech Republic), on social media, and through mobile text messages (example: promotion in Lebanon).
- Lobbying – Tobacco companies and their allies are shamefully pressuring governments to list tobacco/e-cigarette production facilities, stores, and products as “essential” in countries enacting policies to limit the spread of COVID-19 (example of pressure campaign in Russia).
- Spreading misinformation – In several countries, false information has been spread that smoking or vaping will protect tobacco users from COVID-19 or challenging research showing increased risk for illness when confronted with COVID-19 (check out this summary from the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control). This information is inaccurate and dangerous.
- ‘Philanthropy’ – For decades, tobacco companies have taken advantage of natural disasters and emergencies to build goodwill among the public and policymakers. These efforts are nothing more than a smokescreen to continue business as usual, which is to sell deadly tobacco products that kill more than eight million people worldwide each year.
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The increased risk COVID-19 poses to smokers and vapers makes it more important than ever for policymakers around the world to adopt strong tobacco control measures – particularly in low- and middle-income countries where more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live.
The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control defines the policies needed to drastically reduce the devastating global burden of tobacco use. These policies include 100 percent smoke-free public places, large pictorial warning labels on tobacco products, increased tobacco taxes, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and evidence-based assistance to help smokers quit.
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