Recently my daughter, who lives in Australia, asked me about news reports that Tobacco Industry was aiding the public health by getting involved in developing vaccines against COVID 19. A recent report and policy brief provided for the World Health Organization puts this news in a fuller context. You can read the report for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC is an international treaty in force since 2005 and entered into by 182 countries. Unfortunately the United States is one of only a few countries that have not ratified the treaty. The treaty was developed under the auspices of the World Health Organization to improve health by coordinating strategies to address the global tobacco epidemic.
The report makes clear that the best thing that the Tobacco Industry could do for the public health is to stop marketing their products which cause more than 1.4 trillion dollars of economic losses and 8 million deaths each year. The report summarizes evidence showing that tobacco use increases the risk for transmission of COVID 19 and worsens the health impact among those infected with COVID 19. Most insidiously, the brief describes concerns that the tobacco industry and other interested parties are using the COVID crises to improve their public image by publicizing donations and amplifying misleading messages suggesting benefits from tobacco in preventing COVID 19 infections.
The tobacco industry continues to profit from a product that causes addiction and kills more than 50% of people who use the product as it is intended by the manufacturer. Creating an image as a socially responsible industry is part of a strategy to market that product. Any public health messaging from the industry can best be understood within that context.