An anti-tobacco misuse watchdog under the umbrella of Tobacco Control Forum has accused the tobacco industry of conniving with some government officials to frustrate tobacco control efforts.
This was at a press briefing at Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) headquarters in Bukoto, Kampala.
Mabel Kukunda, UNHCO’s advocacy and networking officer, said the industry players funded a section of government officials to attend the Conference of the Parties (COP7) in India.
“We know that lobbying government officials is one of the documented strategies that the tobacco industry uses to subvert, undermine and derail tobacco control efforts,” she told reporters.
“We are aware that a team of people who support the tobacco business forced their way to attend a global anti-tobacco conference but were blocked on the basis that they are tobacco industry promoters.”
Those nominated were a 14-member team from the health and finance ministries and NGOs fighting tobacco consumption.
The COP is the governing body of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control and is comprised of all parties to the convention. It keeps under regular review the implementation of the convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote effective implementation.
“Given its mandate, the tobacco industry and its allies must not in any way participate in this meeting as this would clearly be an act of interfering with the tobacco control formulation process,” said Kukunda.
Andrew Kwizeera, the technical resource person of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, explained that participation of the tobacco industry and its allies in any activity furthering tobacco control is an attempt to promote tobacco industry interests at a global level.
“Their attempts are always to show the public that they are in the normal business yet their operations impact negatively on the lives of the people because their products are toxic.”
Section 19 of the Tobacco Act restricts government officials from interacting, supporting, endorsing or accepting any non-binding or non-enforceable agreement with the tobacco industry except for purposes of regulating and monitoring the tobacco industry or products and the interaction must be transparent.
Kwizeera said the Tobacco Control bill aims at promoting and providing alternative livelihoods for persons engaged in tobacco growing centrally to the assertions by the tobacco industry and its allies that tobacco growing is being banned.
Jennifer Kalule, the technical advisor communications and advocacy at the Centre for Disease Control, urged government officials to desist from getting involved in tobacco industry efforts to derail tobacco control efforts.
“There is no excuse whatsoever that justifies undermining domestic laws including Tobacco Control Act which was enacted to protect the health and lives of Ugandans,” she said.