One might assume that American tobacco companies were hurting because the “smoking rate in the United States has dropped from 43 percent in 1965 to 18 percent today…” The drastic drop is due “to strict laws outlawing cigarette ads.” Despite the low rate of smoking here, the tobacco industry’s profits are reportedly “higher than ever.” And why is that? Because tobacco companies have greatly increased their revenues abroad.
On Sunday, John Oliver did a segment on Last Week Tonight about what the big tobacco companies are doing outside of the United States. One of their tactics is suing countries that “have attempted to create public health laws in order to stem the tide of citizens who become addicted to the their cancer-causing products.” Those countries include Australia, Uruguay, and a number of developing nations.
Tom Boggioni (Raw Story):
Oliver pointed that the soaring profits are due to tobacco companies aggressive marketing of their products in overseas markets where they have learned to bully governments in the international court system.
Daniel Kreps (Rolling Stone):
Oliver’s takedown also focuses on the extreme lengths companies like Philip Morris International are going to place their products in the hands of the youth, including a Marlboro-sponsored kiosk outside an Indonesian school where teens can purchase a single cigarette for a dime.
Kreps said that countries “have responded to Big Tobacco’s unorthodox marketing with laws that allow government to place grotesque images of smoker’s lung and blackened teeth on cigarette packaging…” He added that “those measures have resulted in threats of billion-dollar lawsuits from the tobacco giants in international court.”
Philip Morris International (PMI) is waging one such battle with Togo, one of the ten poorest nations in the world. PMI, “a company with annual earnings of $80 billion, is threatening a nation with a GDP of $4.3 billion over their plans to add the harsh imagery to cigarette boxes, since much of the population is illiterate and therefore can’t read the warning labels.”
Boggioni noted that lawyers for tobacco companies “are using trade agreement laws banning government appropriation of company assets to get around laws that would replace tobacco brand names with public health warnings against smoking, stating it would lower the value of their trade marks.”
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Tobacco (HBO)
Watch John Oliver’s Epic Takedown of the Tobacco Industry (Rolling Stone)