John Oliver Exposes Big Tobacco’s Intimidation Tactics

The number of American smokers may have dropped in the last decade — and you haven’t seen the Marlboro Man riding off into the sunset since the late 90s — but business is still booming for big tobacco companies. On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver exposed the ruthless tactics of tobacco company Phillip Morris International (owner of Marlboro) to rake in billions of dollars in countries where legal restrictions on cigarette marketing and sales aren’t as harsh as in the U.S. This enables smoking, and its glorification, to run rampant. One example: Indonesia’s chain-smoking baby, whose favourite brand is Phillip Morris International’s A Mild.

And when countries like Australia or even Togo, one of the poorest countries on Earth, try to enforce advertising restrictions as a public health measure, the company — which has $80 billion in annual revenue — isn’t ashamed to intimidate and sue governments for millions or billions to protect its finely-tuned image.

Oliver's point: Irresponsible marketing tactics for tobacco remain the same, while the health risk will continue to swell. Smoking affects a person’s entire body, from heart disease and lung cancer to erectile dysfunction, premature aging, and mental decline. To appease the tobacco industry's need for a marketable mascot, Oliver did offer up one compromise: Jeff, the cigarette-slinging, cowboy hat-wearing diseased lung.