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WHO’s Bloomberg is all set to smoke out the tobacco giants

While your favorite westerns might have popularised the glitzy image of smoking, the new age of anti-tobacco health movements has a fresh hero — the e-cigarette. But will this super-solution deliver? Or are we waiting for yet another alternative to turn to the dark side?

It is estimated that around 480,000 Americans die of tobacco-related diseases every year, and deaths caused by second-hand smoking account for about 10% of it.

The last decade witnessed campaigns against tobacco consumption intensifying even as awareness about its ill-effects spread to all demographic groups, prompting some governments to impose regulations.

One of the potential solutions that found wide acceptance is smoke-free cigarettes. Naturally, some of the leading tobacco companies and a vast majority of tobacco consumers found e-cigarettes appealing, for the mutual benefit they offer. While the health benefits of smokeless cigarette are still being debated, there are increasing concerns over the influence of tobacco products on the youth.

 

Picture Courtesy: Pxhere

Coincidentally, a close look at some of the recent developments points to the emergence of a similar situation involving a different industry. Parallels can be drawn between tobacco abuse and misuse of firearms, considering the strong clout of the respective companies in the administration. Also, there are similarities in the way people are raising their voice against cigarette companies and the National Rifle Association.

While intense lobbying helped the tobacco and firearm industries escape regulators so far, the scenario is fast changing.

Last week, media mogul and New York’s ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an international regulatory agency to keep a tab on cigarette makers. The move came amidst allegations that the leading tobacco companies are engaging in deceptive tactics. The agency, STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products), was founded by the foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies, with commitments of up to one billion dollars to fight against tobacco.

What prompted Bloomberg, currently WHO’s global ambassador for non-communicable diseases, to conceive the watchdog is what he terms ‘an attempt by cigarette maker Philip Morris (PM) to mislead the people’ through murky investments in an anti-tobacco foundation.

There is no sufficient evidence to prove the long-term health benefits of the smoke-free product

For quite some time, Philip Morris, maker of the popular Marlboro brand, has claimed to have been transitioning into a smoke-free firm by focusing more on its e-cigarette brand. Meanwhile, there is no sufficient evidence to prove the long-term health benefits of the smoke-free product. It is also feared that the use of electronic cigarette, or vaping as it is commonly called, could lead to more complicated health issues in the long term.

Critics allege cigarette companies have embarked on a mission to misinform the public about their business model, with the sole aim of staying in business.

Earnings of Philip Morris grew 19% in the most recent quarter as a favorable volume/price mix pushed up revenues. Among rivals, Altria Group (MO) reported marked growth in its fourth-quarter profit. Industry watchers remain upbeat about the outlook of the companies, primarily due to the growing demand for their e-cigarette brands.

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