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About our tobacco campaign

We hold Big Tobacco accountable for the lives it destroys.

Our tobacco campaign challenges the expansion of tobacco corporations like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, whose products kill millions of people each year. We are making the industry pay for its abuses and preventing it from derailing international lifesaving laws. And in the process, we are setting precedents for reining in other deadly industries, from Big Oil to Big Food. Read more:

Tobacco still a deadly killer
The lifesaving power of international law
Our successes
Our campaign partners
Precedent-setting campaign
Take action

Tobacco still a deadly killer

In 1994, seven CEOs of the largest tobacco corporations stood before Congress under the hot glare of TV cameras and the intense scrutiny of the U.S. public. One executive after another swore they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive.

All seven were lying.

Decades later, thanks to the campaigning of Corporate Accountability and allied organizations, those lies have been exposed. The tobacco industry’s influence in the United States has been diminished. Tobacco corporations can no longer splash sexy ads across billboards and magazine back covers. Youth-targeted marketing like Joe Camel has been retired. And a vast majority of establishments are now smoke-free.

But the human toll of Big Tobacco’s drive to addict new customers is still staggering. Every year, more than seven million people die from tobacco-related diseases.

Today, the tobacco industry uses the same tactics it used once in the U.S. and Europe to hook people in what it sees as “expansion markets”: mostly countries in the Global South. For example, Big Tobacco targets middle-class women in the Philippines or children in Colombia who can buy single cigarettes from street vendors. That’s why activists from across the Global South are leading the way in reining in the tobacco industry. And it’s why we have been organizing shoulder to shoulder with them for more than 15 years.

Because the world’s greatest preventable epidemic of death and disease is wholly driven by an industry with deeper coffers than many of the countries in which it operates, we continue our coordinated, global campaign.

The lifesaving power of international law

“From the start, Corporate Accountability has played a vital role in challenging tobacco industry interference, one of the greatest threats to the implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

Dr. Douglas W. Bettcher, director, prevention of noncommunicable diseases, World Health Organization (WHO)

Corporate Accountability Stop Big Tobacco sign

We challenge the tobacco corporations seeking to derail lifesaving public health policy.

To rein in the massive and global power of Big Tobacco, we must prevent the industry from operating with impunity across borders.

The global tobacco treaty (formally known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) was created to do just that. We waged a global and historic campaign to secure this treaty with government leaders from across the Global South and a global coalition of human rights, environmental, faith-based, and public health organizations. Adopted in 2003, it is the first legally binding treaty of the WHO.

Today, more than 180 Parties have ratified the global tobacco treaty. That means this groundbreaking public health and corporate accountability treaty covers nearly 90 percent of the world’s people.

The backbone of the global tobacco treaty

Article 5.3 establishes the tobacco industry’s irreconcilable conflict of interest with public health and requires governments to protect their policies from industry interference. The article provides a tool for governments and activists to prevent Big Tobacco from undermining, delaying, and watering down tobacco control policies at every turn.

Just a few examples of insulating public health policy from industry interference include:

  • Colombia:
    Colombia catapulted to the forefront of tobacco control in Latin America when it passed a strong national bill in 2009. Backed by Article 5.3, Colombia’s Congress removed industry representatives from the negotiating table during the development of the bill. Without Big Tobacco in the room, Congress could include a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; a requirement for graphic health warning labels; a requirement for ingredients disclosure; and a ban on individual cigarette sales.
  • Philippines:
    Filipino advocates rallied support to incorporate Article 5.3 guidelines into a national policy. Passed in 2010, the policy instructs government officials to not partner with, endorse, or promote the tobacco industry and its interests. It is one of the strongest examples of implementation and enforcement of Article 5.3 through national law.
  • Kenya:
    Kenya has passed multiple public health protections to implement Article 5.3 and other tobacco control measures: the Tobacco Control Act (2007) and Regulations (2014). While British American Tobacco has been using legal tactics to delay implementation of these laws, they nevertheless provide a model for other African governments to advance similar policies.
Making Big Tobacco pay

“Litigation has played a key role in turning the American public and public policy against the tobacco industry, by exposing its misdeeds and raising the cost of its products. Article 19 will enable governments and activists throughout the world to use this powerful weapon to tame this rogue and deadly industry.”

– Richard Daynard, university distinguished professor of law, Northeastern University

Article 19 is another precedent-setting corporate accountability provision of the global tobacco treaty, designed to make Big Tobacco pay for the harms its products cause. It provides guidance for governments around the world on how to take Big Tobacco to court.

Just as the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement changed the landscape for Big Tobacco in the United States, Article 19 has the potential to change the landscape for the industry worldwide. In part because Big Tobacco is currently not held liable for the health care costs of the more than 7 million people who die from tobacco-related diseases every year, the tobacco industry continues to be enormously profitable. The top five transnational tobacco corporations raked in $35 billion in profits in 2016.

We are working with governments, legal experts, and public health advocates around the world to advance Article 19. Together, we will ensure governments have the tools to hold the tobacco industry liable.

Our successes

Corporate Accountability organizers at COP 6.

We organize with governments from around the world to rein in Big Tobacco.

Over three decades, our campaign to challenge Big Tobacco has drastically curbed the power of the industry in the United States. And our organizing in partnership with global allies has been vital to securing precedent-setting international law. Together, we are ensuring Big Tobacco cannot continue to export its epidemic of death and disease globally.

  • In close partnership with allies and governments in the Global South, we advanced the unanimous adoption and rapid ratification of the global tobacco treaty, the first global public health and corporate accountability treaty. The treaty protects nearly 90 percent of the world’s population.
  • From Colombia to Australia to Kenya, countries around the world are implementing powerful measures to protect public health, in keeping with the global tobacco treaty.
  • Philip Morris International was forced to change its name to Altria in 2003 given the shift in public climate that we helped create.
  • In 1999, just three years after we set out to “Send Joe Camel Packing,” RJR Nabisco pulled its ads featuring the iconic cartoon camel.
  • In 1997, our boycott exposed the truth behind RJR Nabisco.

Our campaign partners

The global campaign to hold the tobacco industry accountable is driven by an alliance of dozens of environmental, public health, human rights, and corporate accountability organizations in as many countries around the world.

Convened and supported by Corporate Accountability, this broad coalition — the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) — was pivotal to the global tobacco treaty negotiations, helping galvanize a united front in securing the strongest possible treaty. It was also instrumental in closing dangerous loopholes the tobacco industry had fought to include.

Today, NATT and Corporate Accountability partner to advance the lifesaving implementation of treaty measures around the world. For example, our partnership with our allies at Consumer Information Network in Kenya helped move the government to investigate British American Tobacco for bribing policymakers to water down public health law. As a result, Kenya passed one of the strongest anti-bribery laws in Africa.

As an accredited observer to the treaty’s governing body, Corporate Accountability and NATT play a focused role in supporting governments to keep the industry out of the meetings and accelerate implementation of the treaty’s most powerful measures.

Our research and expertise provide pivotal information for public health advocates. We engage in strategic research and analysis of tobacco industry interference tactics. We also provide policy expertise in keeping the industry out of policymaking.

Read more about our approach to organizing with allies.

Precedent-setting campaign

The tobacco campaign sets important precedents for reining in other deadly industries that threaten our lives and planet.

Climate

Our climate campaign builds on many of the breakthroughs we have achieved through the tobacco campaign. In our campaign to kick Big Polluters out of climate policy, we are building on the precedent we set in securing Article 5.3 of the global tobacco treaty. And we are building on the potential of Article 19 of the global tobacco treaty in our initiative to make Big Polluters pay for their role in creating the climate crisis.

Trade

The global tobacco treaty affirms the priority of health over trade and commercial interests. We are building on this principle as we work in coalition with allies around the world to stop pro-corporate trade deals that threaten people and our planet.

Because trade agreements are one of the lead ways that the tobacco industry tries to sabotage public health law, we organize to ensure the defeat of trade agreements that put corporate interests over people and the planet. We were part of the coalition that helped defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2016. Today, we are taking action to ensure people’s lives, well being, and the environment are prioritized over corporate interests when it comes to renegotiating North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Join the call.

Take action

  • If you’re a government official, read about tobacco industry interference in public health policy in the Guardian and Reuters. Then pledge to protect the Conference of Parties from tobacco industry interference by contacting us at FCTC@corporateaccountability.org.
  • Sign the petition to replace NAFTA with an agreement that works for people, not corporations.
  • If you are a policymaker interested in implementing Article 5.3 measures in your country, download this roadmap on how to protect public health policy from Big Tobacco.