(New York, USA) — Vital Strategies today applauds the decision by Brazil’s Office of the Attorney General (Advocacia-Geral da União) to file a lawsuit against the companies largely responsible for Brazil’s tobacco epidemic – British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and their Brazilian subsidiaries. The lawsuit aims to recover the costs to Brazil’s health system of treating 26 tobacco-related diseases over the past five years.
Vital Strategies President and Chief Executive Officer, José Luis Castro, said:
“The Government of Brazil’s lawsuit against tobacco companies to recover health costs marks a historic moment in tobacco control in Brazil. It is now only the third country, after the USA and Canada, to demand that tobacco companies are held financially accountable for the harm they cause. For too long, these companies have reaped the profits of marketing and selling products that kill up to half of all users, while leaving individuals and governments to deal with the health and financial repercussions of the industry’s actions. This lawsuit has the potential to relieve the burden on the public purse by recovering the amount spent by the Government in the last five years on 26 tobacco-related diseases.
“In pursuing this lawsuit, Brazil’s government is putting the country’s people before tobacco industry profits, upholding the country’s constitution, and meeting its international obligations as a party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We hope more countries follow this example and take action to make big tobacco pay.”
Tobacco is leading cause of preventable death in Brazil, killing more than 150,00 people every year and over 1.1 million Brazilians become sick due to causes attributable to smoking, including heart disease, pneumonia, stroke and cancers. According to The Tobacco Atlas, nearly 20 million adults and more than 200,000 children (aged 10-14 years) in Brazil use tobacco each day. The economic cost of smoking in Brazil, including direct costs related to healthcare expenditures and indirect costs related to lost productivity due to early mortality and morbidity, is estimated to amount to more than 73 billion Real.
Tobacco use in Brazil is driven by the industry’s deceitful advertising and marketing practices that purposely target the country’s youth. Vital Strategies’ Quit Big Tobacco campaign urges organizations to pledge not to work with the tobacco industry, or the advertising and PR companies that help big tobacco market its products. To date, more than 250 agencies and brands have taken the pledge.
For more information about Vital Strategies’ work on tobacco control, visit vitalstrategies.org/programs.
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.