Tag Archives: international tobacco

John Oliver — Meet “Jeff the Diseased Lung” takedown of tobacco companies

jeff the diseased lung

This is really brilliant. John Oliver on HBO dedicated an 18-minute segment to ripping into the tobacco companies for attacking small nations trying to implement anti-tobacco laws.

Oliver makes some good points, some I knew about, others I didn’t. We all know the tobacco industry is in full-fledged decline in the West because frankly people are tired of watching their loved ones die of COPD and lung cancer … and governments are tired of the billions of dollars of medical costs draining their economies. The smoking rate in the West is less than one-half of what it was 50 years ago.

Well, the tobacco industry has responded by aggressively marketing its products overseas, especially in Africa and Asia. These poorer nations as a rule don’t have strong regulations regarding tobacco and smoking rates are exceedingly high in some of these countries (According to Oliver, Indonesia’s smoking rate is 67 percent among men.).

Oliver’s takedown begins with Australia, which has been one of the most aggressive nations in the world in combating tobacco. Australia passed a law requiring plain packaging, which Philip Morris International, obviously a subsidiary of Philip Morris, took to court. The case went all the way to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the government.

PMI then filed a trademark lawsuit against Australia to the World Court, saying Australia’s refusal to allow tobacco branding violated a trade agreement with Hong Kong, where PMI is headquartered.

Oliver also brings up lawsuits filed by tobacco companies against tiny countries like Uruguay, Togo and the Solomon Islands for attempting to restrict tobacco branding.

jeff the diseased lung billboard
Actual Last Week with John Oliver “Jeff the Diseased Lung” billboard in Uruguay,


Oliver’s show, Last Week with John Oliver, then came up with a brilliant idea. Create a tobacco brand for these poor countries trying to limit tobacco branding. And they came up with Jeff the Diseased Lung.

Last Week with John Oliver then took out billboard ads in Uruguay and sent t-shirts to Togo with the Jeff the Diseased Lung logo, telling the tobacco companies, ‘it’s all yours. The brand is there, you can use it, our lawyers won’t sue you.”

Very subversive and very funny. (Hopefully YouTube doesn’t take this down after a week.)