Letter to the Editor: To lessen the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, you must lessen the one caused by tobacco.

Each year, tobacco kills eight million people globally. Almost a half-million of those deaths are in the U.S.

May 31 marks the 32nd annual World No Tobacco Day, a global public health campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to expose the deadly tactics of the tobacco industry, the impacts of the tobacco epidemic it drives and offer solutions for people to claim their right to healthy lungs and lives.

As the world’s eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t lose sight of another deadly global epidemic: Each year, tobacco kills eight million people globally. Almost a half-million of those deaths are in the U.S.

This epidemic is driven by the tobacco industry, which seeks to profit off the sale of addictive and deadly products. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Tobacco has doubled down on its time-tested tactics: marketing its products to young people and interfering in public policymaking. The industry is using aggressive public relations campaigning to position itself to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luckily, the world has a powerful tool to curb Big Tobacco’s power: the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), also known as the global tobacco treaty.

The U.S. has yet to ratify that treaty, but state and local governments can still use the guidelines in the WHO FCTC, which is one essential way to counter the devastating impact of COVID-19 and future respiratory-related pandemics, and save millions of people’s lives from the effects of tobacco use.

Our elected officials must look past Big Tobacco’s publicity stunts and enact policies in line with the global need for strong corporate accountability measures that save lives.

On World No Tobacco Day, I’m calling on our elected officials to take steps to stop Big Tobacco’s marketing to youth, reject tobacco industry interference in policymaking, and make Big Tobacco pay for its abuses.

This letter is written by Edee Affeldt, a resident of the Roseville area. 

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.