Michael R. Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies today have taken a critical step to accelerate global progress in reducing tobacco use by announcing the launch of Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), a new global watchdog that will aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry tactics and practices to undermine public health.

Announced at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, this new initiative will help ensure the public and policy makers know the truth about the tobacco industry and its deadly and deceptive practices around the world.   

This initiative couldn’t be timelier. It comes as tobacco giants such as Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are waging duplicitous PR campaigns claiming to be changed, responsible companies that want to help solve the tobacco problem. Philip Morris is even funding a so-called “Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.”

But these companies’ actions show they haven’t changed at all. Philip Morris, BAT and other tobacco companies remain the main cause of this enormous public health problem and the primary obstacle to greater progress. These companies are marketing cigarettes as aggressively as ever, especially in vulnerable low- and middle-income countries and often in ways that appeal to kids. They also fight in country after country to defeat proven strategies that reduce tobacco use and save lives. Philip Morris in particular has filed expensive lawsuits against strong tobacco control laws across the globe, and a 2017 investigative report by Reuters exposed a massive, secret campaign by the company aimed at “bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty” (get the facts about Philip Morris International).

Tobacco use kills more than seven million people worldwide each year. To save lives, governments across the globe must stand up to the tobacco industry and fully implement the proven strategies called for by the tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, advertising bans and large, graphic health warnings.

By exposing the tobacco industry’s destructive actions and false solutions, the new STOP initiative will greatly advance these efforts to save lives. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies for the unparalleled leadership they continue to provide in the fight to stop the tobacco industry and the death and disease it causes.

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