Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 2 - Tobacco - full transcript

John riffs on Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, '50 Shades of Grey', and the unethical legal practices of tobacco company Phillip Morris International.

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Season II, episode 2

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for being with us.
A quick recap of this week.

We begin tonight in Yemen.

Home to 26 million Yemeni people
and 27 million American drones.

For years Yemen has worked closely
with the US on counterterrorism issues.

Their government collapsed recently.
This week, things got even worse.

The United States closing down
its embassy in Yemen.

The State Department evacuated
dozens of diplomatic officials,

urging all Americans
to leave that country immediately.

Yes, if you are an American
diplomat in Yemen, evacuate.

If you're an American tourist,

what the fuck were you doing
taking a vacation in Yemen ?

Bad choice.

A rebel group called the Houthis
appears to be in charge in Yemen.

So, who are they ?
And can we work with them ?

When you speak to them,
they're quite polite and pleasant.

Lovely. How lovely.
Rebels who are polite and pleasant.

Y'know, like Drake.

This all sounds
like it's tremendous news,

unless I interrupted you
too early.

They're polite and pleasant,
but one of their slogans is:

death to America.

Okay then, okay.
That is completely unacceptable.

Unless they're referring
to the '70s soft rock band America.

In which case
I totally support them.

You've been through a desert
on a horse with no name ?

Did it ever occur to you
it's your job to name the horse ?

Call it Cinnamon and ride back.

You might notice he said,
one of their slogans.

And that's because
the full slogan reads:

"God is great, death to America,
death to Israel, curse the Jews,"

"victory to Islam",
which is horrifying,

but still slightly less odious
than "I'm Lovin' it."

Also there is some
potentially good news here:

not only are the Houthis
against Al Qaeda.

They may be trying
to moderate their tone.

I interviewed their leader here
and he was very adamant

about trying to have
better relations with the US

and he even went so far
as to repudiate their slogan

and say "that's just a slogan,
we don't mean it literally."

Okay then. At this point the phrase
death to America lost its meaning.

It's like,
we should really hang out sometime

or I'm sorry, or I love you,
they're things to say...

Moving on to other major news
this week,

we saw the worldwide release
of Fifty Shades of Grey.

It's done surprisingly well,

despite the fact that
Jamie Dornan is not my Christian.

Hashtag #notmychristian.

The media has been very excited
about this all week.

Who would not be excited to watch
scintillating dialogue such as this ?

That's impressive.
You a girl scout ?

No, organized group activities
aren't really my thing.

- So what is your thing ?
- I don't know. Books.

My penis just yawned.
I will say...

This movie has provided
a fascinating glimpse

into the attitudes
of various countries.

The UK gave it their equivalent
of an NC-17 rating,

while Malaysia banned it,
calling it more pornography than movie.

on the basis of that clip we saw,

it's more Home Depot commercial
than pornography.

There is one country
that went in a different direction.

Here in the US, 50 Shades of Grey
is rated R,

kids under 17 must
be accompanied by an adult.

The French are giving the green
light to kids as young as 12.

Yes, France is allowing 12-year-olds
to watch Fifty Shades of Grey.

That is maybe
the Frenchest thing imaginable

other than a croissant sitting
in a cafe eating a baguette,

or maybe a mime feeding invisible
cheese to his invisible mistress

with a visible erection.

It's pretty French.
Just out of interest for me,

what was the reasoning
for such a rating ?

The French official says isn't a film
that can shock a lot of people.

The decision wasn't unanimous
but that's only because some there

thought there shouldn't be
any age restriction.

Even 12-year-olds in France
will find the movie tame.

It was an amusing erotic trifle,
I suppose.

The lovemaking was passable,
belt play is pedestrian. N'est pas ?

a little update on Ecuador.

You may remember last week,
we poked fun at their president,

who'd been calling out his Twitter
and Facebook critics by name

and encouraging supporters
to attack them online.

He saw what we did
and was not thrilled.

And the reason I know,
and this is true,

the President of Ecuador has been
shit-talking me on Twitter,

saying, and this is true,
among other things...

He said these gringo talk shows
are as unpleasant as a diuretic.

Do British comedians exist ?
Are you all sure about this ?

And he's right.
British comedian is an oxymoron.

Much like jumbo shrimp

or Ecuadorian President
who prioritizes his time wisely,

but it gets worse.

Correa gave his weekly
televised address to the nation

and he was still annoyed
about this.

With international backing
there is a funny campaign

that says
that we are against humor

because now they will show you
Twitters that we want to stop.

Imagine that, me, against humor ?
But my jokes are known worldwide !

Let me stop you there.
That's almost true.

It's not so much that your jokes
are known worldwide,

as that you are becoming known
worldwide as a joke.

That's the thing...
I would stop this.

I would stop making fun
of Correa's oversensitivity,

but he has a history of stifling
dissent in Ecuador.

He's clamped down on journalists,

from suing a newspaper that
said he was acting like a dictator,

to humiliating a female reporter
who asked him a tough question,

calling her a horrible fatty.

Fatty is one of the least
presidential words imaginable.

It's right up there with
awesomesauce and fingerblast.

You don't want to hear that
from a world leader.

There is one thing I would like
to correct from last week.

I showed a clip of this clown
during Correa's speech.

It turned out that
was actually no random clown.

That was Tiko-Tiko,
a beloved children's entertainer.

Tiko-Tiko was upset
and called me grotesque.

When a clown calls you grotesque,
it hurts.

I will apologize to Tiko-Tiko,
and I'll tell you why,

because I do not want
this man angry with me.

That plays in the background
when a psychopath ties you up

and tortures you
with dental instruments.

I am sorry, Tiko-Tiko. Please don't
make me saw my leg off to escape you.

And now, this.

Last Week Tonight asks,
how is this still a thing ?

Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
How is this still a thing ?

Sports Illustrated, the preferred
magazine of dads since 1954,

highlighting great moments in sport,
from the miracle on ice

to that one time Vince Lombardi
got punched by Green Bay Packers.

Every February, S.I. releases
its most popular annual issue

to a creepy chorus of approval.

Check it out, Mike Jerrick,
look at the screen.

The swimsuit issue is coming out
next Tuesday, a great magazine.

It's even worse when
the models are in the studio.

Will you be my Valentine ?

I want the chocolate but there's
a little bit of a waiting list.

Thank you so much.
Courtney, I love you baby.

Courtney is Taryn's wife. Expecting
their first child any moment now.

The swimsuit edition was created by
Andre Laguerre in 1964,

to boost sales
between sport seasons.

It was a perfect expression
of the sixties,

a time of such
rampant casual sexism,

that it gave birth to the sexual
harassment in the workplace film.

If you two want to get knocked up,
John and I are glad to help you.

But as society moved on, the swimsuit
issue not only hung around,

it became the magazine's
key selling point.

You get basketball, football,
tennis, golf and...

And the famous swimsuit issue.

Revealing 1991 swimsuit issue
and the free sneaker phone.

- The swimsuit issue.
- That's the icing on the cake.

The swimsuit issue
is still moving copies.

It sold more than 800 000 copies
on newsstands in 2013,

more than 10 times what a regular
issue of Sports Illustrated sold.

Which raises the question, why ?
At one point it was tantalizing

to receive a once annual printed
magazine of scantily clad women.

Do people not understand they could
now just type naked ladies

into the internet and see
what Google throws at them ?

Even S.I. seems to know
it's losing relevance,

every year they provoke
an attention grabbing controversy.

Whether it's using other
country's citizens as props.

Some are calling them at best,
culturally insensitive.

Objectifying women
with an actual object.

Barbie is on the cover of the
swimsuit issue and there is outrage.

Or this year, baiting the media
with this bullshit.

Some are questioning
whether the cover is too lewd.

Too risqué ?

When the line goes this far,
what's left ?

The vagina is what's left
and one of these years,

in an act of desperation,
S.I. will put one on the cover.

Until that time, it's left to
the rest of us to ask ourselves:

the Sports Illustrated swimsuit
issue, how is this still a thing ?

Moving on.
Our main story tonight is tobacco.

It used to be
a cornerstone of American life.

It was how we knew sex was over
before the female orgasm was invented.

Even if you didn't smoke, you
could not escape those who did.

Cigarettes were in the hands
of trusted newsmen,

cartoon characters
and cowboys in TV commercials.

You had your supper and coffee,
the horses are settling down,

you start to think
about Saturday night in town.

Come to where the flavor is.
Come to Marlboro country.

That's the iconic Marlboro man,
as synonymous with freedom

as he was with dying from
smoking-related diseases,

because that's what happened
to four of the actors who played him.

Four dead actors !

It's like if there was a gas leak
on Whose Line Is It Anyway ?

Why did you all have
to yes and each other ?

It is weird seeing cigarette ads now.
For the past half-century,

America limited how tobacco companies
are able to behave.

We've put warning labels on
packaging and banned cigarette ads,

executives defended themselves
against public-health questions.

It's true, that babies born to women
who smoke are smaller,

but they're as healthy as the babies
born to women who do not smoke

and some women prefer
having smaller babies.

You heard it, pregnant ladies:
enough cigarettes

and you're pretty much
just shooting out Lego babies.

They fit in Star Wars toys !
Who wouldn't want that ?

By the late '90s, tobacco companies
retired not just the Marlboro man,

but also Joe Camel, who people
accused of being targeted at children,

because he was a cartoon camel
who dressed like the Fonz and smoked.

These restrictions helped lower
smoking rates in the US

from about 43 percent in 1965
to 18 percent today.

Which you would assume would
decimate the tobacco industry.

Which is what makes this
clip from 2008 so surprising.

Tobacco is what you might call,
smoking hot.

Is this the best time ever
to be a tobacco farmer ?

The most profitable.

It's an aging product
that's decreasing in popularity,

and yet
it just can't stop making money.

It's the agricultural equivalent
of U2.

One of the reasons for this might be
that while Americans smoke less,

in some parts of the world,
people are smoking more,

to an occasionally shocking extent,
you might remember this video.

The video of this two-year-old boy,
he's just puffing away on a cigarette.

The mom says he is addicted
and if he doesn't get the smokes,

he gets angry, starts
banging his head on the wall.

He gets mad when you take away his
smokes. He thinks they're gone,

he doesn't have
object permanence yet !

The smoking baby
was such a sensation,

news crews attempted to find him.

Just across this bridge,
lies the small fishing village

that is home to the smoking baby.

We briefly caught up with Aldi
and his mother at the airport,

flanked by a local TV crew.

Are you Aldi ? Hi, I'm Dan.
How you doing, little dude ?

Holy shit, look at that kid.
He's his own rat pack.

He's missing three other kids
dressed like him and a casino.

And this is where this story
gets interesting.

That baby's favorite brand was
A Mild, owned by Philip Morris,

the company that sells Philip Morris
brands everywhere but America.

They, like other multinationals,
have flocked to Indonesia,

where two-thirds of adult males
smoke and there are few restrictions.

And I do mean very few.

This brings home the point,
this is the entrance to a school.

A few steps from the entrance,

there is this kiosk
sponsored by Marlboro Lights.

A student can come and
buy an individual cigarette,

they're only a dime a piece and
they have a lighter on a string.

Of course the lighter's
on a string !

What kind of irresponsible
cigarette vendor outside a school

would let a child
walk away with a lighter ?

They're dangerous.
Just think about that.

Indonesia is far from the only
country where PMI expanded.

They own seven of the world's
top 15 international brands.

And recently, Marlboro boosted
its global market share,

thanks to its worldwide "don't be
a maybe, be Marlboro" campaign.

If you think: what the fuck does
"don't be a maybe" mean ?

Let the video by the people responsible
for the campaign explain it to you:

As a brand, Marlboro was not
resonating with adult smokers,

though its values of freedom,
authenticity, master of destiny were.

Smokers missed
the essence of the cowboy,

which led us to our opportunity.

Eliminate the word "maybe"
from our smokers' vocabulary,

to become the catalyst that
inspires smokers

from just thinking about life
to taking the lead in their life.

To live the Marlboro values.

To be true, bold
and forever forward.

That is a pile of horseshit.

Even, think about it...

Don Draper looks at that ad and
goes, "pull it back a little bit".

"These are cigarettes
we're talking about, not Jesus."

Countries can try to counteract
the influence of that marketing.

But if tobacco companies
feel too threatened,

they'll put them
through legal hell.

Let me take you on a world tour
of how they attack public health laws.

It's kind of amazing.
Let's start in Australia.

In 2011, they passed a plain packaging
law. What that means is this.

Cigarettes come
in packaging like this.

Drab coloring, messaging
the Australian government rights,

pictures, the brand name
relegated to the bottom.

Australia's plain packaging law
banned tobacco-company branding

from packaging, and replaced it
with upsetting photos.

Toe tag on a corpse,
the cancerous mouth,

the nightmarish eyeball
or the diseased lung.

I'm pretty sure I would find
a healthy lung disgusting.

But that look like you're trying
to breathe through baked ziti.

So just take that down.

Since this law was implemented,

total consumption in Australia
fell to record lows.

And nightmares about eyeballs
have risen to record highs.

Take down the demon eye.

To get these laws, Australia has
had to run a gamut of lawsuits.

Two tobacco companies sued Australia
in its highest court to stop them.

The result was surprising,

as Australia's Attorney General
let everyone know.

We have won that legal action
and just as some icing on the cake,

it seems that the big companies
will pay the government's costs.

Yes !
Score one for the little guy.

Even if that little guy is the sixth
largest country in the world.

The tobacco companies
didn't just lose.

Judges called their case delusive,
unreal and synthetic

and said it had fatal defects.

Which sounds a little like the early
reviews of NBC's "The Slap".

What is this thing ? How long
am I supposed to watch it for ?

Which one is the slap ?

But Australia's legal troubles
were just beginning.

Philip Morris Asia got involved.

The company is threatening
to take the Australian government

to an international court and says
that removing brands from packs

will lower the value of its trademark.

A company was able to sue a
country over a public-health measure,

through an international court.

How the fuck is that possible ?
It's really a simple explanation.

They dig up a 1993 trade agreement
between Australia and Hong Kong,

in which Australia couldn't seize
Hong Kong based companies' property.

Nine months
before the lawsuit started,

PMI put its Australian business
in the hands of its Hong Kong

based PM Asia division
and then, they sued,

claiming that the seized "property"
were the trademarks on their packages.

You've gotta give it to them:
that's impressive.

Someone should give
those lawyers a pat on the back.

And a punch in the face.
But a pat on the back first.

Pat then punch. Pat, punch.
They need a pat punch.

Little pat big punch,
that's what they need.

You'll never guess who else
is coming after Australia.

Three governments, Honduras,
the Dominican Republic and Ukraine

filed complaints with the WTO
against Australia's laws.

Ukraine is charging Australia with
hurting its tobacco exports.

Which was a surprise
to a Ukrainian member of parliament.

When I first read about
the position of the government,

it seems to me a joke, cause
we have zero trade exchange

between Australia and Ukraine
of any tobacco goods.

Zero trade ! Zero.
Ukraine is inserting themselves

into something
they have nothing to do with.

They take the Kanye West approach
to international trade disputes.

Just wiggling in there.

The truth is, tobacco companies
have encouraged these suits,

even covering some
of the legal costs.

The tobacco industry is treating
Ukraine like a stage parent

treats a child
in a beauty pageant.

Brandy wants to do it !
Yes, I paid for her outfit

and I've pushed her onto the stage,
but this was all her idea.

Brandy, if you drop that flaming
baton, you are walking home.

You walk home, Brandy !

And tobacco companies aren't
just going after big countries.

PM launched a legal challenge
against the small country of Uruguay

for damaging
its business prospects.

Uruguay has a population of just
three and a half million people

and is a relatively
tiny cigarette market.

Philip Morris International
is currently suing Uruguay.

A country you think about so little
that you didn't even notice

that that's not Uruguay,
this is Uruguay.

Now the background here.
Nine years ago,

Uruguay started introducing
increasingly larger health warnings.

Smoking rates dropped
and Uruguayans liked the laws,

with 68 percent of smokers saying
they should be stronger.

But that hasn't stopped PMI from
suing them for the past five years.

And that's a lot for a small country.
Luckily, they have had help.

Uruguay has received the support
of the World Health Organization

and the Pan American
Health Organization,

as well as the mayor of New York,
Michael Bloomberg,

who donated $500 000
for payment of attorney's fees.

The legal fees were
getting so expensive,

they had to take money
from Michael Bloomberg.

On the scale of how shitty
that has got to feel,

it's just barely higher
than borrowing money

from your ex-girlfriend's,
current boyfriend's stepdad.

And if forcing Uruguay to do
that was not bad enough,

let me tell you what PMI
has done to Togo.

Togo is one of the ten poorest
countries on earth.

And they unveiled
some new tobacco laws.

Togo is setting conditions
on the sale of tobacco.

Starting on September 1, 2014,
packs of cigarettes sold in Togo

must bear warnings in French,
Ewé and Kabiyé

about the health risks associated
with the consumption of tobacco.

At first, written warnings
sound great.

Until you learn that 40 percent
of the adult population is illiterate.

Which is why some members
of the Togolese government

wanted something more like
Australia's ziti lung packaging.

Take it down.
It's still disgusting.

When they got wind of this,
Philip Morris International,

a company with annual
net revenues of $80 billion,

threatened to sue Togo,
whose entire GDP is $4.3 billion.

When your GDP is a couple of billion
more than the box office of Avatar,

a protracted legal case
is not really what you need.

We reached out to Togo
and asked to see their correspondence

with the tobacco companies and
they gave us this letter from PMI.

We had to translate it from
French, but it was worth it.

This thing is appalling. It informs
Togo that plain packaging laws

would result in an incalculable amount
of international trade litigation,

suggesting Togo would lose
any legal challenge by citing

an Australian high court decision,
which they write:

"plain packaging constitutes
a privation of property rights."

The court case they're referring to
is the one from earlier.

The one tobacco companies
lost so badly,

they had to cover the court costs.

Yet they quote the one judge in that
case who ruled in favor of tobacco,

ignoring the other six
who called their case

delusive, unreal and synthetic
and saying it had fatal defects.

Like when a shitty movie engineers
a good review out of a bad one,

like Mortdecai is a pile
of dot dot dot great.

This letter is bullshit.

Yet Togo, justifiably terrified by
threats of billion dollar settlements,

backed down from a public health
law that many people wanted.

And it's not just Togo.
BAT sent a similar letter to Namibia.

And one of their subsidiaries
sent one to the Solomon Islands,

a country with a population
of 600 000.

It's safe to say, if you live
with at least two other people

and you ask one of them
to smoke outside,

you can look forward to a letter from
a tobacco company very soon.

I could get angry and I could
call tobacco companies assholes

or monsters
or open sores on Satan's dick.

Let's rise above it
and let's try and broker peace.

It's clear what each side wants:
countries want to warn their citizens

about the health dangers
of smoking tobacco.

Tobacco companies want
to present branded images.

May I suggest a compromise ?
I present the new face of Marlboro:

Jeff, the diseased lung
in a cowboy hat.

We are offering Jeff to you,
PMI, to use as you wish.

Put him on your billboards !
Put him on some ads !

In fact, we've already
started doing it for you.

This is an actual billboard
we have put up in Uruguay

of Jeff the diseased lung.

That is in Montevideo now.
And people seem to like it there !

Of course they like it !

Everyone loves Jeff the diseased
lung in a cowboy hat !

One more thing.
To be completely honest,

we didn't just do it in Uruguay.

We also, and don't be mad,
we made some Jeff-branded t-shirts

and we shipped them to Togo,
where they've been a hit.

If you don't believe me,
check this out.

Marlboro, Jeff's already out there !
You just need to claim him.

Our lawyers, unlike yours,
will not sue !

I know our viewers would love
to help you get the message out.

You can tweet about Jeff using
the hashtag #jeffwecan

to get him trending worldwide
and get PMI's attention.

Post Jeff's photo on Google Plus
and tag him Marlboro,

which might push him to the top
of Marlboro's Google image search.

We can do this, everyone !
Don't be a maybe about this !

Who here would like to meet Jeff ?
Let's bring Jeff out ! Come on, Jeff !

It's Jeff everyone !
It's Jeff the diseased lung !

Look at him, Marlboro,
he's not a maybe !

He's not a maybe because
he's suffering from emphysema.

Aren't you, Jeff ?

Classic Jeff !
And guess what, PMI ?

Even though, you do not market
to children, kids love Jeff, too !

Don't you, kids ?

What do you say, Marlboro ?
Let's make Jeff happen !

That's our show,
see you next week, goodnight !