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John Oliver uses ‘Last Week Tonight’ to launch PR campaign against Big Tobacco

Meet Jeff the diseased lung, Marlboro's new mascot.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Feb 16, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 1:00 pm CDT

John Oliver, fresh from taking on Big Pharma last week, has a new enemy: tobacco companies.

Everyone knows that tobacco companies are evil. It’s kind of a no-brainer; their entire job is to sell something that kills people. But according to John Oliver’s new segment, what we don’t realize is that tobacco companies are still doing really, really well. While smoking has become less popular in the U.S., tobacco companies are thriving overseas—especially in poorer countries, where companies like Philip Morris International can sue governments that introduce health regulations into submission.

Thankfully, Last Week Tonight was on the case.

While most of the segment is pretty grim, Oliver does come up with a solution: rebranding tobacco’s image with a new mascot. Inspired by the Marlboro Man, Oliver introduces Jeff the Diseased Lung, who is already showing up on social media—and on billboards in Uruguay, where the government is currently being sued by a tobacco company.

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Oliver’s plan is to make Jeff so popular that he shows up in Marlboro’s Google image searches. We hope HBO has a good legal team at the ready.

Photo via Last Week Tonight/YouTube

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*First Published: Feb 16, 2015, 10:13 am CST