There has been yet another major blow to the tobacco industry in France: for the first time, a bank has made a formal commitment to end its partnerships with any company working in the tobacco industry. It is an unprecedented measure on a societal level that reflects the growing awareness of the dangers of tobacco.
In a press release, the banking group BNP Paribas declared an end to supporting « financial and investment activities related to tobacco companies ». This decision affects not only tobacco product manufacturers but also producers, wholesalers and traders—indeed, anyone whose primary revenue is related to the tobacco industry.
The bank justified its decision by affirming that it only wants to finance « economies that have a positive impact« . This change in policy is in line with previous announcements from the banking group. It has recently sought to limit investments in hydrocarbon and coal.
Big Tobacco in the crosshairs of major institutions
BNP Paribas’ decision is not only a matter of ethics or public health. It also allows the bank to avoid a potentially legally binding contract with Big Tobacco. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes the reduction of tobacco consumption will become a major issue by 2030.
In 2015, the United Nations made a similar commitment to reduce tobacco consumption through its sustainable development program. Consequently, in subsequent years cigarette smokers may find themselves slowly but surely isolated, cut off from their traditional sources of financial support.
One of the WHO’s primary objectives is to reduce the number of global premature deaths by a third (currently estimated at 40 millions/year), of which tobacco-related deaths remains a major factor.