Nicotine is addictive. Smoking is bad for your health. And the tobacco industry has always known it. In the 1990s, leaked internal documents revealed that the industry knew the damage it was causing, leading to a groundswell of popular outrage in the United States. Many state attorneys general sued the industry. Under pressure, an agreement was reached that made Big Tobacco pay and defined a set of rules for marketing its products. Thanks to this, today we clearly know the damage that cigarettes do. This case should serve as an example for the oil industry. Together, we demand justice.
The tobacco case
Public awareness was a key part of this turnaround in the tobacco industry. In 1994, the first internal documents of a cigarette manufacturer were leaked, revealing that top executives had research on the harm their products were causing to public health. The case made headlines in the United States. Public outrage fueled leaks from other research studies. Seven tobacco companies tried to appeal saying they were not aware of the scale of the problem, but it was clear that they were lying. A class action lawsuit was filed against the industry and state attorneys general began suing the industry. In 1998, the “Master Settlement Agreement” (MSA) was reached. At the time, 46 U.S. states had filed lawsuits against major tobacco companies. The MSA is the largest general civil litigation agreement to date in U.S. history and has resulted in restrictions on tobacco marketing, billions of dollars in compensation to states, and the publication of many internal documents that are accessible to the public.
The oil industry knows the harm it causes to people and the planet. And the case of tobacco sets a powerful precedent. Now, we need public access to fossil fuel industry internal documents, and we need to hold this industry accountable. Raising the visibility of the crimes of the fossil fuel industry is fundamental for shifting public opinion and creating the political will necessary to advance climate justice around the globe.
Large Tobacco Companies – Transnational Agreement – Corporate Responsibility: https://liabilityroadmap.org/case-studies-eng
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. “” WHO FCTC: 15 years protecting and saving lives “”, https://www.who.int/fctc/mediacentre/news/2020/15-years-protecting-and-saving-lives/en
Cathy Wurzer and Julia Franz, “Minnesota’s Historic Tobacco Settlement Is 20 Years Old,” MPR News, May 8, 2018, https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/05/08/minnesotas-landmark-tobacco -settlement -is-20 years old ”
The Tobacco Industry and the Environment https://exposetobacco.org/resource/ti-and-environment/