John Oliver fights big tobacco and wins the internet
John Oliver has been nothing short of brilliant on his HBO show Last Week Tonight which has dealt with issues such as fraud within the Miss America beauty pageant, the wealth gap, and the climate change debate. His style of long-form journalism takes the time to shine a light from every angle on the absurdity of his week’s topic, and Oliver has been very successful in directing attention towards issues that might otherwise escape consideration by other media outlets that focus on a very narrow range of issues.
This week, Oliver took on big tobacco and his actions may help people and countries around the world who are being targeted by Phillip Morris International (PMI) in a dangerous game of business rights that overshadow public health issues.
For example, since America reduced its smoking population from about “43 percent in 1965 to around 18 percent today” one would think tobacco companies have taken a huge loss in profits, but Oliver’s clip shows that couldn’t be further from the truth. The tobacco industry is still highly profitable and the reason is, because PMI has begun targeting foreign countries around the world that have looser health laws and smaller economies that can’t afford to fight back.
What’s worse, Oliver reports, is that smaller countries, such as Togo, Africa, who have tried to alert the public to the dangers of smoking by putting warning labels on tobacco products are targeted by PMI in lawsuits they simply can’t afford to lose.
The Togolese government tried to put warning labels on cigarette packs, but since 40 percent of the country is illiterate, Togolese government officials wanted to put pictures of diseased lungs and mouths on cigarette packaging. When PMI learned of Togo’s plans to warn the public, they decided to sue the tiny country which has a GDP of $4.3 billion. Contrast that with PMI’s $80 billion in net worth, and you can see that PMI is basically bullying this country into allowing a public health crisis to continue.
And that’s where Jeff, the diseased lung mascot comes in.
In an effort to warn the public and curtail tobacco companies, Jeff’s image has been placed on posters around the small country of Uruguay, South America, who is also being targeted by PMI in lawsuits after they tried to put health warnings on tobacco product labels. Jeff’s image has also been put onto t-shirts, pictured above, and shipped to Togo in an effort to increase awareness of the threats smoking poses.
Oliver is urging people across the world to tweet with the hashtag #JeffWeCan to stick it to PMI because the tobacco company basically cannot do anything to stop Jeff from warning the world that smoking causes illnesses. And, kids love him!
If you would like to help John Oliver spread his message and stick it to the tobacco companies you can tweet or simply tag pictures of Jeff with the word ‘Marlboro’ to help get Jeff at the top of Marlboro’s Google image searches.
Now, that’s activism done right.
Watch the entire clip here to find out more about PMI and their desperate attempts to keep the world smoking: