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WHO calls on governments to ban tobacco industry ‘greenwashing’ activities


May 13, 2022 14:51 GMT

They point out that several companies are running “disinformation” campaigns to appear environmentally friendly in order to improve their public image.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on governments to ban ‘greenwashing’ activities by the tobacco industry, according to a report prepared by the WHO and the world tobacco control agency STOP, published this week.

The text indicates that multinationals such as British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International have been carrying out various “disinformation” campaigns to appear environmentally friendly in order to improve their public image.

For example, BAT issues press releases with headlines claiming that the company has been listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Ranking for 20 consecutive years, or that it has been recognized as a climate leader by the Financial Times.

“It does not only harm humans”

Critics say many of these environmental ratings and recognitions rarely take into account the companies’ end product or service, ignoring the fact that the tobacco they sell is harmful to human health.

“With this type of activity, it gives the impression that the tobacco industry is socially and environmentally responsible,” says the document. “However, this industry is causing untold damage on the health of smokers, non-smokers and farmers. And tobacco harms not only humans, but also the environment,” he adds.

From the WHO and STOP they warn of the ecological impact generated by the tobacco industry, detailing that every year 32 million tons of tobacco leaf are grown around the world to produce 6 billion cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes

This requires about 22,000 tons of water, or what is the same, about 8.8 million Olympic swimming pools, often in places where water is limited. Likewise, it is estimated that almost 607 million hectares of forest have been lost due to tobacco cultivation since the 1970s.

On the other hand, the report notes that “e-cigarette waste is potentially an environmental threat more serious than cigarette butts, as e-cigarettes introduce plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury, and flammable lithium-ion batteries into waterways, salts, and wildlife.”

In sum, the text calls on governments, especially those that are members of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to ban ‘greenwashing’ activities, while calling on environmental accreditation organizations not to endorse to that industry or award prizes to that type of company.

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