Two tobacco titans have struck back at allegations they’re employing the COVID-19 health catastrophe to increase their public image and gain access to politicians.
The Romanian Red Cross has been provided a financial contribution — reported to be 1 million — from Philip Morris International.
Critics say it’s a component of a PR attempt to lobby authorities to loosen tobacco controllers.
Also, they point out that tobacco usage significantly increases the probability of critical illness or departure from COVID-19.
‘We didn’t find any publicity’
“Imperial Tobacco Ukraine, as a dominant firm in Kyiv, was requested to donate 1 ventilator into the hospital from the regional authority and other regional teams,” the firm said in an announcement to Euronews.
“The company was pleased to do this and didn’t seek any promotion. It’s apparent that no regulations are broken and to be criticized for agreeing to support the Kyiv community at such unprecedented and challenging instances is a disgrace.”
Nataliya Bondarenko, external affairs manager at Philip Morris Ukraine, refused that the organization’s contributions breach the FCTC.
“FCTC doesn’t prohibit connections between domestic operators and government businesses,” she informed Euronews, speaking to the organization’s activities in Ukraine, Romania, and Greece.
“It does urge parties to the FCTC behave in accord with the federal law to safeguard public health policies concerning tobacco control by commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco market.
“This provision suggests that authorities must act with impartiality and transparency. Our contribution was done in complete compliance with the legislation, demonstrating our ethics and transparency.”
‘As much as its normal tricks’
Dr. Mary Assunta, head of international research and advocacy in the Global Center for Great Britain in Tobacco Control, functions especially on global tobacco control policy. She said the contributions contravene two terms of FCTC.
“The FCTC is a legally binding treaty, and while virtually all nations have ratified it, most face difficulties in the tobacco sector when they employ it. But about 60 nations have prohibited or had limitations on tobacco-related contributions.
Companies like Philip Morris are harnessing the pandemic to contribute money to businesses and authorities. It’s a component of the approach to fix their image and gain access to politicians”
“The tobacco industry is up to its usual tricks by asserting it supports authorities throughout the outbreak, while at the same time interfering with exactly what those authorities do to reinforce tobacco control,” stated Zatoński, who recently released on the topic from the global medical journal Tobacco Control.
“These contributions are a means for the tobacco industry to depict itself as a model corporate citizen and also a valid spouse to policymakers,” stated Zatoński. “While concurrently making deceptive claims that new tobacco control policies, or anything which may hurt their company, cause adverse economic and social consequences. Philanthropic action helps provide a cachet of authenticity to these misleading claims.
“We frequently see tobacco companies donating money to businesses with political relations, since it can be a means for them to ease contact with policymakers from the long run,” he explained.
The Convention Secretariat of the FCTC — a watchdog of this treaty that’s distinct from WHO — said such contributions contravene the arrangement, that was ratified by over 180 nations worldwide.
“These contributions contravene two posts about the WHO FCTC: 13 and 5.3.”
Article 13 of the FCTC claims that tobacco contributions to”associations, such as health, community, welfare or environmental associations, either directly or indirectly through other things,” ought to be banned because these donations goal to”promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly”.
The secretariat further elaborates, calling these contributions” aiming at the promotion of tobacco intake, is a promotion in addition to a public relations plan”.
“Nowadays, the tobacco industry is once more taking advantage of this vulnerable situation of a lot of our celebrations, offering its philanthropic help’ through contributions of cash, personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other sources, in a bid to make the business look good and improve its standing.”
The connection between smoking and COVID-19
Past the detail of this treaty, others underline the truth tobacco companies are devoting help to combat a disease that’s supposed to be jaded by smoking.
Two specialists told Euronews more study is required however that there’s a connection between smoking and acute COVID-19.
“smoking in most forms may also bring about lead to lung inflammation and damage that could predispose to acute COVID-19.
“Therefore, it’s strongly a good idea to restrict tobacco use, such as vaping.”
Russell G Buhr, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles’ Department of Pulmonary & Critical Care additionally confirmed a link between smoking and acute COVID-19.
Ukraine’s’strong tobacco lobby’
Philip Morris International contributed about $350,000 into the privately-funded charity Health for everyone in Ukraine to combat the virus. Imperial Tobacco helped host a lung ventilator at Kyiv.
Smoking prices and tobacco production are diminishing in Ukraine.
It states contributions aren’t made only during COVID-19.
Lilia Olefir, executive manager of LIFE, told Euronews that tobacco companies including Philip Morris have a considerable influence on the nation.
They frequently use this to stress the authorities, she promised. She stated a tobacco firm threatened to close down its creation in Ukraine a year ago because of a new law raising tobacco taxation.
Zelinsky ended up vetoing the legislation and this is a good instance of the way the businesses run in Ukraine, stated Olefir.
She’s concerned the contributions throughout the COVID-19 outbreak not only aid tobacco businesses rebrand themselves but also give them political goodwill and sway.
Olefir stated privately-funded charities like Health for All can be a connection between tobacco companies and the authorities, that needs to be prevented.
Sergei Shevchuk, the mind of the Health for All, formerly chairman of the Ukrainian administration’s committee on health, youth, and pregnancy, has expressed gratitude for the contribution in Philip Morris Ukraine.
Olefir maintained the donation violated legislation in Ukraine.
“However, the police here in Ukraine aren’t implementing it,” she explained. “These tobacco businesses continue to exploit weak systems in Ukraine as long as they could.”
However, Philip Morris hit back stating”ideologically driven groups” were using the catastrophe to”market their rhetoric”.
“Our contribution to Health for everyone has been used to secure personal protective gear for the healthcare professionals that are relentlessly fighting with the COVID-19 distribute in Ukraine,” explained Bondarenko by Philip Morris Ukraine.
Philip Morris Ukraine hasn’t sought publicity for all these contributions.
“We’re saddened that ideologically driven groups are utilizing the present global pandemic to market their rhetoric and, in doing this, possibly preventing Ukrainian health care structures from getting vital support”
Euronews requested health ministries from Ukraine and Greece to comment on this guide but they hadn’t responded by the time of publication. Romania didn’t respond to our unique questions but stated it hadn’t registered any contributions from tobacco companies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.