As governments around the world are focused on fighting Covid-19 tobacco companies are encouraging policy makers to let down their guard against the main driver of another deadly epidemic: tobacco use.
Covid-19 is a reminder of how important it is to fight the scourge of tobacco: smoking or being a former smoker increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Governments know what policies encourage people to stop smoking, but tobacco industry interference is the most important barrier to these policies being implemented.
Put simply: protecting against tobacco industry meddling in government policy, protects health. The latest Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, a report card that assesses 57 governments’ efforts to halt tobacco industry interference in policy decisions, shows that governments have a lot of work still to do.
According to the Index, big tobacco stepped up its meddling during 2019 and accelerated these efforts in 2020, even as a respiratory health crisis swept the globe. Governments are vulnerable to the industry in a number of ways, especially if they don’t have strong protections against interference already in place.
This year, governments have been accepting donations of personal protective equipment, medical supplies and money from tobacco companies.