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Tobacco Firms ‘Obstructing Global Treaty’

Business Mirror – Thursday, 12 March 2009

THE tobacco industry in Southeast Asia is “systematically obstructing” the implementation of a global treaty on curbing smoking and tobacco use, a regional advocacy network warns.

Since it took effect in 2005, the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in the region has been undermined by “insidious tactics” of Big Tobacco, the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) said.

“The abuses of corporations like Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have ranged from attempting to write tobacco-control laws and blocking the passage of key legislations in the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia, and using so-called corporate social responsibility [CSR] to circumvent laws and regulations in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines,” Seatca said in a press release.

At a panel discussion during the14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) in Mumbai, Seatca director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said, “Tobacco-industry interference has been the No.1 obstacle to the WHO FCTC implementation, and countries in the Asean and its neighbors now see protections against this interference as the strongest factor of the treaty.”

“The tobacco industry has aggressively expanded their business in the Asean region. They have deliberately deterred, delayed and diluted tobacco-control laws. With the WHO FCTC guidelines, advocates and public officials can finally put to a halt tobacco-industry tactics, and focus on implementing lifesaving measures to protect their citizens,” Dr. Mary Assunta, Seatca’s senior policy advisor, added.

Seatca urged all parties to the WHO FCTC to take strong measures to implement guidelines on Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC to block tobacco industry interference in regional health policies.

Government and nongovernment officials, public-health experts and tobacco-control advocates worldwide are in Mumbai for the 14th WCTOH to continue taking important steps in global tobacco control.

Seatca’s conference statement said Article 5.3 of the FCTC “is based on the premise that in public health programs, the tobacco industry is the problem, and NOT a stakeholder.”

It added that at the recent Conference of the Parties in South Africa, guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the FCTC was adopted, which state that there is a “fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public-health policy interests.”

“Also, because their products are lethal, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their business. Hence, the tobacco industry can never be a partner in tobacco-control efforts.”

It said Southeast Asian countries, which are all parties to the FCTC except Indonesia, “are replete with experiences of how tobacco companies maneuvered to find ways to deter, dilute and delay tobacco-control measures.”

It added: “The region’s governments have been vulnerable to interference through the industry’s lobbying, public-relations dealings and CSR activities.”


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