In a watershed moment in public health and corporate accountability history, global governments have taken bold, precedent-setting steps forward to kick Big Tobacco out of public health policy — and pave the way to make the industry pay for its abuses worldwide.
At the global tobacco treaty talks (COP8 of the FCTC) that concluded this weekend in Geneva, more than 180 countries came together to adopt a policy to close off the few remaining avenues of political influence for Big Tobacco. The policy — years in the making — prevents industry from infiltrating treaty meetings by posing as members of the media and the general public. And it requires all participants to disclose any tobacco industry ties before entering.
Believe it or not, for more than a decade, Big Tobacco and its proxies have served on delegations, formed front groups to access treaty talks, and claimed to be members of the media. In fact, on the heels of this huge victory, just this morning, The New York Times exposed the many ways the industry is attempting to influence and undermine the talks — and how countries are seeing through the smoke to reject its advances.
This victory is a testament to the thousands of Corporate Accountability members and supporters you who took action to support countries in kicking Big Tobacco out of public health policy. It’s a testament to our team of powerhouse organizers, allies, and government champions from all over the world standing up to the tobacco industry. It’s a testament to the impact we’re having.
And that’s still not all. At these same talks, with our allies, we took two other big steps forward for the corporate accountability movement. The treaty body will continue to develop tools for countries to make Big Tobacco pay for its immense toll on public health through Article 19 on industry liability. And countries formally moved to reject partnerships with Big Tobacco front groups like Philip Morris International’s new bogus foundation, and resolved to develop research and tools for countries to push back.
These monumental successes will save countless lives from Big Tobacco’s political interference. And also, we know this precedent-setting victory will have ripple effects for other industries hell-bent on obstructing progress on human rights, the environment, and democracy. It gives us, our allies, and government champions major momentum on our climate campaign as we head into December’s climate talks with our most powerful coalition yet calling to Kick Big Polluters Out.
I know these are difficult days to keep the big picture in mind. Over the last two weeks, here in the U.S., we’ve seen and felt on the national stage an ugly grasp of power. It has impacted all of us deeply. And its implications are frightening to many of us — especially women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks.
This huge victory reminds us that we are united with people around the globe in our campaign for justice and for people over corporate profits. That when we stand up to fear and intimidation, together; when we keep our vision clear and hope strong; we can win. Big.
Now more than ever is a moment to organize to challenge the status quo as if all our lives depend on it. Because, quite frankly, they do.
Thank you for all that you do.
Patti Lynn is Corporate Accountability’s executive director.