Second webinar of the Tobacco Control Unit of the Catalan Institute of Oncology, WHO Collaborating Centre that took place on June 4, 2020.
The first speaker, Armando Peruga, MD, epidemiologist, researcher at the Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge and Professor at the Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile, spoke to us about “the tobacco industry’s tactics to interfere with tobacco control.” We highlight the following main issues discussed:
• Industry is the main vector of the tobacco epidemic.
• What are the tactics that the industry uses to place its products:
- Manoeuvre to influence the political and legislative process.
- Exaggerate the economic importance.
- Support through screen groups.
- Intimidate governments with litigation or threats.
- Manipulate public opinion to gain respect.
- Discredit proven scientific facts.
The following speaker, Nuria Jar, scientific journalist, collaborator of RAC1 and TV3, Professor of the Master in Scientific Communication at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, talks about “Misleading information about tobacco and COVID in the media”. We highlight the following points of the presentation:
• The universal journalistic criteria based on which something is or is not news are mainly the novelty, proximity, and whether it affects many people or if it affects media people.
• In the journalism science the main primary sources of the information are researchers, conference presentations and abstracts, scientific articles and preprints. While the secondary sources of the information are the notes and press conferences, the communiqués and information retrieved from the social media.
• While analysing the news at the time of COVID, Núria pointed out the two controversial studies published on preprint platforms in late April 2020. One of them spoke of the low prevalence of smokers among people diagnosed with COVID-19 and the other one announced that nicotine could potentially protect from contracting COVID-19. The conclusions were that the articles have elements to be unreliable, they have spoken conditionally without ensuring the news and it has been discovered that the author is related to the tobacco industry.
• In summary, the speaker explained that:
• The “fake news” spread faster than the truth.
• Science in “streaming” is science in direct.
• Social responsibility of journalists is important.
The last intervention was done by Juan Miguel Rey, psychologist and full Professor of Social Marketing at the University of Granada who talked about “The use of social networks by the tobacco industry in times of COVID “. It makes us reflect on the following aspects:
• The industry covers with the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility (RCS), and uses it as a very powerful tool to maintain and improve its image through social causes that they themselves promote and communicate, but we know that it is not an act of altruism. All industry efforts are focused on improving shareholder earnings. Another aspect that the industry improves are their political relations.
• Citizens should be made aware so that they are responsible and alert to possible types of claims or misleading advertising. For example, alluding to the benefits of “lights” cigarettes, making people believe that there are healthier commercial brands, that the filter is a protector, in the 90s an NGO bank was created through the famous “For 0’7” from a well-known tobacco brand leading young people to believe that it was beneficial for the society).
• These days of coronavirus there are many messages from the industry to simulate a beneficial act. The examples of its manipulation are announcing working on the development of a vaccine, insinuating the preventive properties of nicotine and advising the population to keep the safety distance between them to be stronger.
• Campaigns carried out on Instragram by Myblu or IQOS on their social media channels and on their website, citing a series of protective messages that mask the reality behind it.
• In conclusion, Juan highlighted that the industry is using the coronavirus crisis to improve its market shares in a profitable but broadly theatrical way.
We greatly appreciate the participation of the attendees as well as the questions posed to the speakers.