About the Tobacco Campaign

child smoking

Tobacco Is Still a Deadly Killer

In 1994, seven CEOs of the largest tobacco corporations stood before Congress under the hot glare of TV cameras and the intense scrutiny of the American public. One executive after another swore they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. All seven were lying.

Decades later, thanks to the campaigning of Corporate Accountability International and allied organizations, those lies have been exposed and the tobacco industry’s influence in the United States has been diminished. The industry can no longer splash sexy ads across magazine back covers and billboards, youth-targeted marketing like Joe Camel has been retired and a vast majority of establishments are now smoke-free.

So for those living in the U.S., it can be easy to forget that tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death worldwide.

But the fact is, Big Tobacco has effectively exported the epidemic from the wealthiest countries to the people of the Global South.

  • In 2008, Philip Morris International (PMI) split from its U.S.-based parent corporation and set up its headquarters in Switzerland so it could have freer rein to set up shop around the world.
  • Today, British American Tobacco (BAT) (headquartered in the U.K.) has market strongholds in Nigeria, Brazil, Indonesia and Canada.
  • Japan Tobacco (JT) (headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and Geneva, Switzerland and majority-owned by the Japanese government) has entered into strategic agreements with other tobacco corporation to sell brands like Camel around the world.

Having shifted its focus, the industry targets what it sees as “expansion markets.” In human terms, that means, for example, upwardly mobile women in the Philippines or children in Bogotá, Colombia who buy single cigarettes from street vendors. Big Tobacco continues to addict children, women, and people of all ages, with dire consequences.

Every year, nearly six million people die from tobacco-related diseases.

The Global Tobacco Treaty Saves Lives

To tackle this lethal problem, people around the world have united behind a global tobacco treaty, officially known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

It locks in the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures and, when it’s fully implemented, will save more than 200 million lives in the coming decades. More about the Global Tobacco Treaty.

Big Tobacco Wants to Cheat Progress. We Won’t Let It

Of course, the tobacco industry doesn’t want the global tobacco treaty to succeed. All across the world, the industry is trying to get in the way of good policymaking. It poses the greatest threat to the treaty’s success and its ability to save lives.

Working with partners like you, we are committed to clearing Big Tobacco out of the way of treaty progress. In doing so, we are setting a powerful precedent for corporate accountability across industries. More about industry interference.

We Run Smart Campaigns and Forge Strong Alliances

In partnership with our allies, we've paved the way for the adoption of the global tobacco treaty: the first ever public health and corporate accountability treaty.

Challenging Big Tobacco at Home

We launched the campaign to Challenge Big Tobacco in 1993, targeting U.S.-based industry leaders. We mobilized millions of people in consumer boycotts, exposing the falsehoods behind the “family friendly” images of the tobacco-corporation-owned brands Kraft and Nabisco. Ultimately, the public pressure succeeded in compelling RJR to spin-off Nabisco and Philip Morris to do the same for Kraft.

Working with partner organizations, Corporate Accountability International brought about significant changes in the United States. For instance, we helped retire the youth-targeted brand icons Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, which was described by its creator as the perfect image to capture the youth market’s fancy.

We also helped build the public and political climate leading to the Master Settlement Agreement. It compelled Big Tobacco to pay out $246 billion in health care costs used to treat tobacco-related disease. And we worked to pass a landmark law in 2009 regulating tobacco products. More about the campaign’s early successes.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Corporate Accountability International advocated strong tobacco control policies. Slowly but surely, these have become law but not before significant obstacles were thrown up by Big Tobacco. That’s why we continue to challenge the industry in the United States. More about our U.S. work.

Challenging Big Tobacco Around the World

After helping rein in the industry in the U.S., we broadened our focus.  We understood that halting the global export of this epidemic would take a global community working in partnership.

So we founded the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) – a coalition of more than 100 organizations in 50 countries. NATT ensures a strong, unified voice that was crucial in securing the adoption of the global tobacco treaty and now in advocating its implementation. Meet the NATT leadership team.

The global partners we support and work alongside are earning accolades for the lifesaving work they do in their regions. Bloomberg Philanthropies, the largest philanthropist of global tobacco control efforts, has twice awarded NATT members the prestigious Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control: Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria in 2009 and Corporate Accountability International in Colombia, led by Yul Francisco Dorado in 2012.

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