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The Tobacco Industry Used the COVID-19 pandemic to build influence with governments in 80 Countries

A new report from tobacco industry watchdog STOP reveals that the tobacco industry embraced the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to gain influence, meddle in life-saving health policies and secure preferential treatment. Reports from civil society organizations in 80 countries, analyzed in the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021, show that no country was immune to the industry’s efforts to use lobbying and donations, often connected to pandemic response, to its advantage.
“The tobacco industry’s behavior during COVID-19 wasn’t just business as usual—this research suggests it’s been far worse in terms of scale and impact,” said Mary Assunta, PhD, Head of Global Research and Advocacy for the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, a partner in STOP and lead author of the Index. “In the middle of a pandemic, health should be the primary consideration in all policy decisions, but it was often sidelined in favor of the industry’s commercial interests. Where policy isn’t well protected, more lives will be lost to tobacco and post-COVID economic recovery may be impacted, with higher health costs and potentially less tax revenue to fund recovery.”

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