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Why UNO locked horns with the world’s largest cigarette vendor for a name – ‘World No Tobacco Day’?

Tobacco producers implying strategic communication and innovative tobacco products to dodge awareness campaigns and regulations. Even a slight change in the message will give them huge scope for communication campaigns of new age tobacco products.

Devdiscourse News DeskSiddheshwar Shukla
Updated: 01-06-2019 02:58 IST
Why UNO locked horns with the world’s largest cigarette vendor for a name – ‘World No Tobacco Day’?

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What's in a name? The age-old adage seems to have become old enough to understand the business strategies of tobacco giants as the world's largest cigarette vendor - Philip Morris International; is burning the midnight oil to replace one out of the four worlds of United Nations Organisation's (UNO) campaign against tobacco consumption. The global cigarette giant is hell-bent to get the word 'tobacco' replaced by 'smocking' in the slogan of UNO - World No Tobacco Day.

As the global market of tobacco products is estimated to reach $ 450 billion by 2022, the tobacco manufacturing giants are out to grab the biggest pie so implying all the possible tricks in their kitty including tweaking the central message of World No Tobacco Day. This has caused catfight between tobacco producers and regulators throughout the globe and the efforts to checkmate each other continue. The tobacco giants are coming up with innovating products and strategic communication while later redefining regulations to counter those attempts.

A day before the UNO was going to observe the World No Tobacco Day' on May 31, the world's largest cigarette vendor Philip Morris International (PMI), the maker of Marlboro, on Thursday came out with a communication strategy to digest the awareness campaign. PMI, apparently to carve out space for the communication strategy of its new vaping and heated tobacco products, announced to co-opt international efforts to create awareness against tobacco consumption and the world's tobacco smoking epidemic. As the new age cigarettes like e-cigarettes are smoke-free PMI in its message pushed for the rebranding of the 'World No Tobacco Day' observed every year on Mary 31, as 'World No Smoking Day'. PMI also launched its own campaign 'It's Time to Unsmoke' to observe May 31. The company claims that the smoke-free products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes insisting they release fewer toxins. "We regard the PMI campaign as little more than a cynical attempt by the company to promote its deadly products," said Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. However, the UNO has denounced the campaign PMI still can carry on with its strategic messaging to give a reason to tobacco consumers and trap them as their potential consumers particularly youths. However, has the UNO approved the proposed tweak in the campaign it would have opened a huge scope for strategic communication of tobacco product manufacturers.

This is not a standalone attempt by the tobacco giants but the e-cigarettes are also similar products to which the tobacco giants are trying their best through strategic communication. The e-cigarette is smoke-free and uses liquid tobacco which gives out aerosol to be consumed by the tobacco consumer. However, UNO has been rubbishing their claims but the manufactures always cite some researches to back their communication campaigns. The Indian government has recently come out with a circular banning any kind of research, debate and discussion on e-cigarettes in the country. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is already conducting research for critical review and compilation of all such reports. Several governments including India have either banned e-cigarettes or grouped them under the same category of cigarette.

The communication campaign is the most important aspect for the penetration of any product to which the manufacturers took help of researchers, medical practitioners and media as well. This is because positive communication campaign is prerequisite for penetration of the product. However, any compromise in the awareness campaign of UNO would adversely affect, Good Health and Well Being which has been adopted as SDG 4 (Sustainable Development Goal) by the UNDP.

In addition to the health hazards to tobacco consumers, the industry is also a health burden on labourers engaged for production. According to media reports the three cigarette giants of the world - Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands, buy tobacco leaves from contractors who are based on exploited African migrants working in Italy's multi-million-euro industry. Italy is the EU's leading tobacco producer. In 2017, the industry was worth 149 million Euros. Besides, they suffer from various ailments.

Siddheshwar Shukla is Associate Editor with Devdiscourse.