Tobacco is a threat to fair and sustainable development – EURACTIV.com
The EU is preparing a due diligence law by June 2021 to hold companies accountable for their impact on people and the planet. There is an urgent need to tackle human rights violations, child labor, the environmental impact and disinformation of the tobacco industry, write Helen Stjerna, Farida Akhter and Sonja von Eichborn.
Helen Stjerna is a general secretary of A Non Smoking Generation, Sweden. Farida Akhter is an eexecutive director at UBINIG, Bangladesh. Sonja von Eichborn is a director at Unfairtobacco, Germany
The future of the tobacco industry. The prevalence of smoking is declining in many countries, due to tobacco control and health awareness, but tobacco remains the leading cause of death and preventable disease worldwide.
The tobacco industry is expanding its cigarette market in countries with weaker regulations, while launching a wide range of new products, such as heated tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and oral nicotine sachets, to attract customers to countries where cigarette sales are declining.
The industry says these products can help smokers quit smoking and contribute to a smoke-free future. The tobacco industry’s product development and marketing efforts must be recognized for what they really are: strategies designed to secure future tobacco benefits, not to promote global health.
Nicotine without tobacco? Despite the fact that virtually all commercial nicotine is extracted from tobacco, electronic cigarettes and nicotine sachets are widely marketed as tobacco free.
This strategy has allowed companies to market these products as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, while simultaneously circumventing national legislation regulating tobacco products. In many countries, some of these new products exist in a legal vacuum and are exempt from the rules of marketing, taxation, age limit, sales authorization, etc.
The tobacco industry‘s “harm reduction approach” is simply a cover to hide and at the same time support its core unethical business – maintaining and initiating nicotine addiction.
Harm reduction? The harm reduction agenda not only delays efforts to promote public health, but also fair and sustainable development. Marketing âtobacco-freeâ products distracts attention from the harms of tobacco production – which defeats the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs: s).
Tobacco farmers perform extremely hazardous work and seldom receive sufficient income for their livelihood. In tobacco-producing countries like Bangladesh, children are forced to help their parents and are denied their right to health, education, recreation and development.
Globally, an estimated 1.3 million children under the age of 14 work with tobacco. In addition, the cultivation of tobacco causes massive deforestation and pollution. The tobacco industry’s ecological footprint is almost twice that of Sweden.
Cigarette butts are the most littered object in the world, releasing toxins and tons of plastic into nature. The wide range of negative effects of the tobacco industry invalidates all arguments for “special treatment” of certain products in policies or investments.
Smoke-free is not enough. The tobacco industry will never voluntarily eliminate all sustainability issues within its supply chains – the status quo is too profitable. And even if only the health effects of tobacco are taken into account, the industry will never have its place in a sustainable future.
Tobacco companies describe smoking and tobacco combustion as the single biggest problem, with the intention to cover up the serious health effects of nicotine, the common substance in all of their products.
Numerous studies show that in addition to being extremely addictive, nicotine impairs cognitive functions and increases the risk of mental illness; type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, birth defects and other addictions.
Children are particularly vulnerable and are at risk of long-term complications. Scientific evidence points to the need to prevent all forms of nicotine addiction.
A tobacco-free generation. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) urges all countries to phase out all tobacco products (produced wholly or partially made from leaf tobacco) and to exclude the influence of industry tobacco public health policies.
In light of the current disinformation and lobbying from the tobacco industry, these guidelines have never been more important. The industry is misleading consumers, investors and policy makers as to its true intentions; to lure young people into a life of drug addiction. Nine out of ten smokers start in their teens.
Through the use of candy-like flavors and influencer social media marketing, new nicotine products are undoubtedly designed to appeal to minors. As long as there is legal space, the industry will target every young generation and continue to exploit human and natural resources.
To protect the health of the world’s young population and achieve the SDGs by 2030, A Non Smoking Generation, UBINIG and Unfairtobacco, urge international institutions to:
- Support the implementation of the WHO FCTC around the world
- Exclude the influence of tobacco-related actors from policy making
- Exclude tobacco-related players from investment portfolios and pension funds
- Support strong EU law on due diligence by holding companies accountable for human rights violations and environmental impact
- Support efforts to raise awareness of tobacco and the SDGs