Global watchdog to counter big tobaccoBMJ 2018; 360 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1172 (Published 14 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1172
- Hannah McNeish, independent journalist, Cape Town, South Africa
The US philanthropist Michael Bloomberg will spend $20m (£14m; €16m) to launch a global watchdog to monitor and expose nefarious tobacco industry activities. This comes amid growing complaints about big tobacco’s methods to reach new users.
Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) “will aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry tactics and practices to undermine public health,” Bloomberg Philanthropies announced on 7 March at the 17th world conference on tobacco or health in Cape Town.1
“Over the past decade tobacco control measures have saved nearly 35 million lives, but as more cities and countries take action, the tobacco industry is pushing to find new users, particularly among young people,” said Bloomberg, who has spent almost $1bn on combating global tobacco use.
Getting round restrictions
Industry methods include exploiting loopholes and marketing highly flavoured products aimed primarily at young people through social media, circumventing advertising regulations.
As countries have taken stronger steps to reduce tobacco use, the industry has fought back “with unprecedented ferocity,” Matthew Myers, president of the US charity the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The BMJ.
“Around the globe, somewhere between 80% and 90% of new tobacco users are children, and the tobacco industry realises that. So even as countries have banned traditional marketing, what we’ve seen is internet social media campaigns designed to reach out to young people,” Myers said.
Myers says that …