Tobacco use puts smokers at even greater risk for serious Covid-19 disease

Bangkok – Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made public health a top priority in every country in the world, it has left many governments with poor resources receptive to all aid that can provide immediate assistance to their people.

The pandemic pandemonium has offered the tobacco industry unprecedented opportunities to advance its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to get closer to health and senior officials.

The use of charity to gain access to senior officials, promote good relations and raise political capital to influence and interfere with public policy is a prominent tactic in the tobacco industry unveiled in the 2020 Asian Tobacco Industry Interference Index word.

Due to the misleading and powerful influence of CSR activities exploited by the tobacco industry, the WTO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) calls on the treaty parties to normalize and even ban these activities. Almost all Asian countries are parties to this treaty.

The index is a civil society report card that 18 Asian governments rank for their efforts to protect health policies from the influence and interference of commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with Article 5.3 guidelines of the FCTC.

Japan, Indonesia and China are the best of the report with the highest level of tobacco industry. These countries also have the largest smoking populations in the world. Brunei, Pakistan and Nepal have made the best progress in protecting public policy from the influence of industry.

Key findings:

– Health policy is undermined if the tobacco industry is included in the policy-making process. Participation and influence in tobacco control policies appear to be highest in China, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

– Tobacco industry buys influence through CSR activities. Industry-based CSR activities remain common even in countries where restrictions apply. Funding for social issues such as sports and disaster relief enables the industry to promote itself as a ‘good corporate citizen’ in the eyes of governments, as evidenced by Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan and Vietnam.

– Governments offer benefits to the industry. With the exception of Brunei and the devastating damage to tobacco ignored, many governments have been persuaded by the tobacco industry about its importance for economic growth, giving it preferential treatment such as tax cuts, facilitation of trade agreements, and the delayed and weakened implementation of tobacco control measures. It is detrimental to tobacco control and tends to drain tax revenue from national coffers.

– Unnecessary interactions with the industry promote the approval of the government. High-level representatives take part in events organized by the tobacco industry. Activities related to the fight against smuggling are common where the tobacco industry works side by side with governments.

– Lack of transparency in interaction with the tobacco industry. The lack of transparency in the government’s interaction with the tobacco industry remains a problem in almost all countries. Most countries do not have a disclosure procedure.

– Protective measures are needed. Only half (nine) of the countries included in the report adopted policies to prevent interference in the tobacco industry as part of good housekeeping and governance.

The global tobacco industry is dominated by five tobacco companies all based in Asia – China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco Inc. (JTI) and Imperial Tobacco. Group (ITG).

These transnational companies have already ventured into e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products that are misleadingly promoting them as safer alternatives to cigarettes.

Tobacco products contribute to the deaths of more than eight million people annually, while low- and middle-income countries bear the heaviest taxes on public health and the economy. Tobacco use puts smokers at an even higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

The ASEAN block of countries, where 125 million tobacco users live, is being targeted by the industry to increase its profits. These countries are moving slowly, and in some cases they are even returning in their efforts to ward off the influence of the tobacco industry.

There is light at the end of the tunnel as countries that have successfully protected their policies, such as Brunei and Thailand, show a decrease in the number of smokers without suffering economic losses, as the industry usually claims.

A government and society approach is fundamental to addressing industry interference. Governments and civil society must put forward the many treacherous ways in which the tobacco industry operates. Continuous vigilance and proactive countermeasures remain essential.


SEATCA is a multisectoral non-governmental alliance that promotes health and saves lives by helping ASEAN countries accelerate and implement the tobacco control measures in the WHO FCTC. The WHO, recognized by governments, academia and civil society for promoting tobacco control in Southeast Asia, awarded the SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WTO Director’s Special Recognition Award in 2014. -general.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *