Open letter “European Union must stop tobacco industry’s greenwashing”


In an op-ed dedicated to World No Tobacco DayLe Monde explains that the EU must not fall into the Big Tobacco’s trap when it comes to the environmental impact. Initiated by ACT and proposed for signature during the ACT-ENSP event on May 24th, this op-ed aims to dismantle the misleading information about the industry’s “green” actions and to end its collaboration with all public institutions.

Tobacco industry: an environmental disaster, from production to post-consumption

The devastating consequences of smoking on public health are well known and documented, as tobacco products are still responsible for more than 700,000 deaths per year in Europe. Yet, the disastrous environmental consequences for which the tobacco industry is responsible are less known.
Throughout their whole life cycle, tobacco products are responsible for environmental pollution and degradation, such as deforestation, the poisoning of water, air, and soil with chemicals and microplastic contamination. Each year, more than 4,5 trillion cigarettes are discarded in the environment. Almost all of them have a cellulose acetate filter attached, a poorly degradable plastic additive which can pollute up to 500L of water and which are the second most found-single use plastic items on beaches in the European Union.

Tobacco industry’s greenwashing tactics

In plain contradiction with these facts, tobacco industry multiplies its attempts to present itself as a responsible and environmentally friendly industry. Whether it is through the communication available on the official websites of its main companies or the extensive promotion and advertising of beach cleaning activities of their product waste by volunteers , the tobacco industry diverts and manipulates the facts. It evades its environmental responsibility while regaining legitimacy with public authorities.
By creating an appearance of respectability, this behaviour jeopardizes several decades of efforts by civil society and governments’ efforts to prevent and denounce the devastating health, social, environmental, and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and production. These efforts have notably led to the signature of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by 180 Parties including the European Union, covering more than 90% of the world population, and aiming at protecting present and future generation from the tobacco industry.

Tobacco waste management: a greenwashing opportunity for the industry

A striking example of greenwashing activities is the role awarded to the tobacco industry in the management of cigarette butts. In application of the polluter-pays principle, the European Union has adopted in 2019 a directive on single-use plastic products, including cigarette filters. Among other obligations, this text will oblige tobacco producers to cover the costs relating to the clean-up, transport and treatment of cigarette butts and Member States to develop awareness raising measures on this matter.
However, without clarification from the European Commission, Member States may entirely delegate to the tobacco industry the management, or part of the management, of its waste. This is already the case in France which has entrusted all tobacco companies, united in an eco-organization called ALCOME, with the management and communication around pollution of its cigarette butts. ALCOME has thus already signed several dozen contracts with local authorities and already takes the opportunity to blame smokers for its pollution

The European Union must not fall into the tobacco industry’s trap

Delegating this environmental mission to the tobacco industry jeopardizes decades of health policy aimed at keeping the tobacco industry away from any public service mission. Such a delegation is in flagrant contradiction with article 5.3 of the FCTC which requires Parties to protect their policies from the interests of the tobacco industry. The role of the tobacco industry should be limited to financing the clean-up and management of cigarette butts. The tobacco industry should not be involved in any way, directly or indirectly, in the management or supervision of cigarette butts the organisation of awareness campaigns on this subject. This should be reserved for an eco-organization entirely independent of the tobacco industry.
We, the undersigned organisations, having already expressed our concerns to the European Commission, call upon Member States of the European Union to address this issue during the next European Environmental Council to be held on June 28. The implementation of international agreements protecting public health and the environment, and in particular the FCTC and its article 5.3., should invite them to refuse this blatant attempt at greenwashing by the tobacco industry.

You can still sign the letter here

Organizational signatories

Kurt AignerPresident of the Austrian Council on Smoking and Health, Austria
Julio AncocheaASOMEGA (Asociación de Médicos Gallegos), Spain
Pavel AntonovBluelink Foundation, Bulgaria
Paolo d’ArgenioTobacco Endgame – Alleanza per un’Italia senza Tabacco, Italy
George BakhturidzeDirecteur de la Tobacco Control Alliance, Georgia
Uliana BakhPROI, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Birgit Beger, Présidente de la Smoke Free Partnership
Catherine de Bournonville, Coordination Bretonne de Tabacologie (CBT), France
Pierre Gilbert Bizel, Observatoire Santé de la Province Hainaut, Belgium
Panagiotis BehrakisGeorge D. Behrakis Research Lab Hellenic Cancer Society, Greece
Maria Sofia CattaruzzaSITAB, Italy
Luke ClancyDirecteur de la TobaccoFree Research Institute of Ireland, Republic of Ireland
Pr Bruno CrestaniFondation du Souffle, France
Fundacion de Education para la SaludSpain
Nonguebzanga Maxime CompaoreNorwegian Cancer Society, Norway
Ketty DelérisInfluenceuse en prévention des addictions, France
Joanna DidkowskaInstitut national de recherche en oncologie, Poland
Pascal DiethelmOxySuisse, Switzerland
Sonja von EichbornUnfairtobacco, BLUE 21, Germany
Marius EremiaAsociatia Aer Pur Romania, Roumania
Esteve FernándezCatalan Institute of Oncology, Spain
Raquel Fernández MeginaPrésidente de Nofumadores.org, Spain
Silvano GallusIstituto Mario Negri, Italy
Masha GavrailovaSmoke Free Bulgaria Association, Bulgaria
Gergana GeshanovaSmoke Free Loife Coalition, Bulgaria
Nijole Gostautaite MidttunCoalition pour le Contrôle du Tabac et de l’Alcool, Lituania
Suzanne Gabrielsexperte en lutte contre le tabagisme à la Fondation Belge contre le Cancer, Belgium
Nicole HassAsociación de pacientes con EPOC, APEPOC, Spain
Pr. Loïc JosseranPrésident de l’ACT-Alliance contre le Tabac, France
Danielle Van KalmthoutCoordinatrice à l’Alliance Belge pour une Société sans Tabac, Belgium
Niels Them KjærDanish Cancer Society, Danemark
Dmytro KupyraNGO Advocacy Center “Life”, Ukraine
Arben LilaKosovo Advocacy and Development Centre, Kosovo
Mihaela LovšeSlovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control, Slovenia
Pr. Yves MartinetPrésident du Comité National contre le Tabagisme (CNCT), France
Enkeleint A. Mechili, Université de Vlora, Albania
Pr. Florin MihaltanRomanian Society of Pneumology, Roumania
Mark Murphy, Irish Heart Foundation, Republic of Ireland
Esther Nieto Garcia,FAECAP, Spain
Martin Petrovski, Institute of Public Health of the Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of North Macedonia
Krzysztof PrzewozniakSmart Health Foundation, Poland
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez Lozano, Président de l’ENSP (European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention)
Luciano RuggiaDirecteur de l’Association suisse pour la prévention du tabagisme, Switzerland
Christa RustlerGerman Network for Tobacco Free Healthcare Services, Germany
Ailsa Rutter, Fresh (Making Smoking History), United Kingdom
Cécile Tonnerre,Tree6clope, France
Andrés Zamorano,CNPT Comité Nacional para la Prevención del Tabaquismo, Spain
Witold Antoni ZatońskiInstitute-European Observatory of Health Inequalities, Calisia University, Poland
Mia Zupančič, Youth Network No Excuse, Slovenia

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