Campaign highlights tobacco industry tactics used to influence public health policy
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially launched the ‘Stop the lies’ campaign on November 16, 2023. The initiative aims to protect young people from the tobacco industry by calling for an end to tobacco industry interference in health policy.
The campaign is supported by new evidence from The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, published by STOP and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, which shows that efforts to protect health policy from increased tobacco industry interference have deteriorated around the world.
WHO’s campaign aims to amplify youth voices, expose tobacco industry tactics and increase public awareness of the need to defend health policies and protect the health of future generations.
Youth groups around the world called on countries to “...adopt decisions that shield us from the manipulative practices of tobacco and related industries.”
Ruediger Krech, director of Health Promotion of WHO, said, “WHO stands with young people globally who have demanded governments protect them against a deadly industry that targets them with new harmful products while outright lying about the health impacts. We call on all countries to safeguard health policies from this deadly industry by not letting them have a seat at the policy-making table.”
The tobacco industry tries to interfere with countries’ right to protect people’s health by taking governments to court or offering financial and in-kind incentives to be able to influence tobacco control policies, even at the upcoming WHO FCTC Conference of Parties. WHO supports countries in defending evidenced-based tobacco control measures in the face of industry interference.
The tobacco industry continues to lie to the public, using different ways to spread misinformation, including through:
- Front groups and third parties
- Social media influencers
- Sponsored events
- Funding scientists and biased research
- Supporting corporate social responsibility initiatives
Recognising the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to market its products to vulnerable groups, especially young people, the WHO is committed to exposing the industry's attempts to weaken health policies and call on policymakers to stand firm against tobacco industry influence. There are 183 Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that have committed to do this under the global health treaty.
Research has shown that tobacco causes 25 per cent of all cancers and kills over eight million people each year. The WHO says that the tobacco industry persists in marketing what they call ‘new’ and ‘safer’ products that are harmful to health while still producing trillions of cigarettes each year.
With half of all tobacco users dying prematurely, the maintenance of the tobacco and nicotine market relies heavily on recruiting new, young users, and tobacco companies employ multiple tactics to gain the trust and interest of young people at an early age.
Menthol and flavoured cigarettes and candy-flavored e-cigarettes with eye-catching designs have further contributed to the popularization of these products among the young generation, all while leaving many consumers largely unaware of the negative effects on their health.
The tobacco industry invests enormous amounts of money in lobbying against tobacco control policies and funds organisations that promote its interests.
These tobacco tactics, when left unchecked, inflict immeasurable harm on public health. Moreover, the production and use of tobacco and nicotine products have a cascading damaging effect on other critical issues such as the environment, mental health, and child labour.