CHESTCHEST NewsCHEST issues statement on Big Tobacco

CHEST issues statement on Big Tobacco

Spurred by the Philip Morris (PMI) purchase of Vectura, a company that makes inhalers and nebulizers that help people with lung disease, the American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST) reaffirms its position on tobacco companies.

From the statement, CHEST calls upon:

  • Tobacco companies to divest from tobacco-based products, which unquestionably cause and contribute to chronic, devastating, and life-threatening diseases; and
  • Lawmakers to draft legislation toward preventing future acquisitions that allow companies to simultaneously add to the global burden of lung disease while profiting from its treatment.

“Knowing the indisputable harm caused by tobacco companies, CHEST proposes that there should be established a firm line between tobacco companies and health care products, with no overlap,” says CHEST Past President Steven Q. Simpson, MD, FCCP. “CHEST champions lung health and provides resources to members who are helping their patients fight lung disease every day. Failing to oppose the companies that cause and exacerbate these lung diseases in any form would be in direct conflict with our mission.”

Read the complete statement below.

This communication is the result of advocacy efforts driven by CHEST on behalf of patients with lung disease and the clinicians who treat them. Members interested in participating in committee activities should contact advocacy@chestnet.org.

As a health care organization focused on respiratory health, we are called on by our mission to actively address those actions that could contribute to an increase in lung disease and risk to individual and community health. CHEST stands in opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, marketing, and distribution of all tobacco products.

The health burden of tobacco use is extensively documented in scientific research. The effects of smoking on the body – including lung disease, heart disease, and cancer – are no longer an issue to be debated. Furthermore, low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately impacted. Of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide, 80% live in low- and middle-income countries.1

In the many years since research first demonstrated the devastating effects of tobacco use, tobacco companies have made little progress in divesting themselves of tobacco-related products, in spite of public statements that they intend to do just that. Instead, when more restrictive smoking laws took effect, tobacco companies turned to e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine and other harmful substances. An estimated 35 million people around the world use electronic cigarettes or “heat-not-burn" tobacco products. A presentation at CHEST 2021 shared that e-cigarette use among adults is associated with increased odds of developing asthma and COPD, especially among older adults, women, and Hispanic Americans. Moreover, e-cigarettes are a gateway to other forms of tobacco use for teens. As of February 2020, more than 100 countries regulate or ban e-cigarettes.2

The recent corporate acquisition by a major tobacco company of inhalation device technology has raised serious and justifiable concerns within the respiratory community. We draw attention to this not to point fingers at one company but to reassert our primary message, which is:

Tobacco products remain the leading cause of preventable death and disease worldwide. The profits, practices, and power of the tobacco industry remain the biggest barrier to change. CHEST opposes the profiting of tobacco companies from products developed to treat lung injury.

Therefore, CHEST calls upon:

  • Tobacco companies to divest from tobacco-based products, which unquestionably cause and contribute to chronic, devastating, and life-threatening diseases; and
  • Lawmakers to draft legislation toward preventing future acquisitions that allow companies to simultaneously add to the global burden of lung disease while profiting from its treatment.

Health care providers are toiling to address the burden and impact of tobacco use on an individual level in the clinical care of the patients they serve. We reaffirm the fundamental principle that physicians must act in the patient’s best interests, including prescribing the most effective medication for the patient’s health condition. As a medical society, we remain committed to advocating against the root cause of this suffering. To this end, CHEST reaffirms our commitment to the following principles:

  • We Will Not Engage in Partnerships with Tobacco Companies: CHEST does not approve direct or indirect partnership agreements with tobacco companies.
  • We Will Not Accept Tobacco Money: CHEST refuses financial support from tobacco companies.
  • We Oppose Tobacco Investments in Health Care: CHEST opposes the entry of big tobacco companies into the health care sector while still producing and profiting from addictive tobacco/nicotine products that injure lungs, resulting in lifelong and fatal lung diseases.
  • We Oppose Tobacco Company Use of Health Care Devices: CHEST opposes the use of technology and devices designed for lung health care to deliver addictive and harmful tobacco and nicotine products.
  • We Will Help Those Struggling With Tobacco/Nicotine Addiction: Providers should always recommend the treatment(s) best suited to their patient’s health condition and engage in shared decision making to enable the patient’s values and preferences to be the driving factors in their care.


1. World Health Organization (WHO). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco

2. Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins. https://globaltobaccocontrol.org/en/policy-scan/e-cigarettes/countries?country=263