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May 19th, 2016:

Tobacco Companies vs the Department Of Health

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Customs officials allegedly involved in drug and tobacco smuggling

A network of Australian border security officials is allegedly working for organised criminals, including drug and tobacco smugglers, in the most serious corruption scandal to ever hit the nation’s border agencies.

A Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered multiple cases of alleged corruption involving staff from the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, along with maritime industry employees with government clearances.

In response to the revelations, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Border Force said they were “working actively with law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of serious criminality by its officers at the border”.

Police on Wednesday arrested a Department of Agriculture compliance assessment officer, Richard Vong, over alleged links to organised criminals, including a syndicate led by suspected Melbourne drug trafficker Jimmy Chhav. They also raided his house.

Mr Vong will face court on Thursday charged with trafficking and possessing a drug of dependence, knowingly dealing in the proceeds of crime, dealing in property reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime and theft of Commonwealth property. A female official has been charged with knowingly dealing in the proceeds of crime and dealing in property reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime.

The allegations come as the government makes a virtue of its strength on border security, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claiming the opposition “lack the commitment to keep our borders secure”.

However, the federal government and customs chiefs, including the nation’s top border security official, Michael Pezzullo, have been repeatedly warned over four years in high-level confidential briefings about significant suspected corruption in the Border Force’s ranks, especially in NSW.

Evidence, including NSW police briefing notes and testimony from crime figures, suggests that one of the most vital border security facilities, the NSW Customs Examination Facility, has been compromised by corrupt insiders, enabling criminals to import large amounts of drugs and tobacco undetected. Staff at the facility are responsible for searching containers suspected to contain contraband.

A small network of Department of Agriculture officials responsible for clearing imports into Australia have also been assisting and liaising with known drug traffickers for at least the past five years.

This network is allegedly led by Mr Vong, a suspected corrupt Department of Agriculture official, who works out of Customs House in Melbourne. The department missed multiple warnings about Mr Vong and some of his colleagues.

Fairfax Media has delayed reporting on the border corruption scandal for several months at the request of authorities.

In NSW, evidence uncovered by Fairfax Media from multiple sources, including agency officials, government briefing files and figures with underworld ties, implicates Border Force officials in drug and tobacco trafficking, and leaking to the criminal underworld.

Criminal intelligence suggests one officer has been taking kickbacks of hundreds of thousands of dollars from traffickers, while another has been facilitating importations.
Suspected corrupt officers are still operating.

The latest scandal comes three years after a network of corrupt customs officers was identified at Sydney airport and charged by the federal police. At the time, Mr Pezzullo promised sweeping reforms, including many which have been implemented.

Top security and policing officials, along with corruption experts, called for the nation’s federal police watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) to have its budget dramatically increased and said the Australian Border Force had failed to deal with corruption in its ranks.

Leading corruption expert and former senior judge Stephen Charles, QC, said ACLEI – which, with about 20 investigators out of a total of 55 staff, is among the smallest corruption fighting agencies in Australia – was badly outgunned. Mr Charles said Australia needed an anti-corruption agency with hundreds of staff.

“It [ACLEI] needs to be ten-drupled,” a law enforcement agency source said.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that officers from the joint state and federal Polaris waterfront crime taskforce in NSW, which has played a key role in identifying corruption on the docks, were last week told they would be shut down due to a lack of funding. State police are furious, but federal government sources insist the funding has been reallocated to other anti-organised crime taskforces.

One briefing describes how a veteran customs officer who has previously worked closely with the AFP and the NSW Crime Commission is suspected of leaking “sensitive information” to drug and tobacco importers. A customs officer is also named as having travelled overseas with a suspected criminal.

Property records obtained by Fairfax Media reveal this customs officer, who was on long-term sick leave, lives next door to the suspected criminal in the Sydney suburb of Sylvania Waters.

The border security scandal comes three years after the Sydney airport customs corruption scandal, in which a network of corrupt customs officers led by customs officer Adrian Lamella were trafficking drugs using couriers on international flights.

The reforms implemented by Mr Pezzullo and the federal government after the Sydney airport scandal appear to have failed to stop significant corruption in the agency.

One senior government source said the Australian Border Force was “incapable” of eradicating corruption in its ranks and sometimes dealt with internal integrity issues with departmental sanctions, such as demotion or sacking, rather than by conducting intensive probes that could expose corrupt networks.

The Department of Agriculture section involved in Mr Vong’s alleged corrupt network was formerly named the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.

AQIS senior managers were first warned that organised criminals had infiltrated the agency’s ranks in 2012, when an officer was identified, and later charged, for leaking information to a drug importation syndicate.

Information outlining Mr Vong’s alleged links to suspected drug trafficker Jimmy Chhav has been held by various law enforcement agencies for several years, but it is unclear if it was ever formally passed to the Department of Agriculture. However, the department had its own information linking the pair which was never acted upon.

In April 2012, Fairfax Media first reported Australia’s maritime borders were badly exposed to corruption and that a confidential Operation Polaris report had found that “serious organised crime groups are able to access and exploit key Australian government officers.”

“Polaris investigations have identified employees of law enforcement and regulatory bodies providing assistance to criminal groups. This assistance is less common but of higher consequence than private sector corruption. The employees have included members of customs and employees of AQIS.

“Operation Polaris has also determined the government’s Maritime Security Identification Cards – required by tens of thousands of Australians who work in the industry – have failed to stop organised crime infiltration.

“Multiple MSIC holders are involved in drug activity and are subject to substantial intelligence holdings detailing their criminal activity and criminal associates.”

Stephen Charles, QC, a former Victorian Court of Appeals judge and an expert in anti-corruption agencies, said watchdog ACLEI was unable to combat public sector corruption outside of several policing agencies.

Mr Charles, who recently gave testimony to a Senate committee about the need for the establishment of a national anti-corruption agency, said ACLEI’s staff had good intentions but had limited investigative and jurisdictional capacity.

The federal government has recently passed laws to ensure that people with criminal histories are not giving the government security clearance to work on the waterfront or at airports.

Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday morning that the allegations were being dealt with appropriately.

“Such behaviour will not be tolerated and we’ll take every possible measure to ensure that those people, if they have behaved in a way that is criminal, face the appropriate justice system,” he told ABC TV.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a statement that although it and the Australian Border Force were “unable to comment on the status of current investigations”, it could confirm that it had been working “in partnership with ACLEI”.

​It said Taskforce Pharos, an internal taskforce set up following the corruption scandal at Sydney airport to target corruption “within the border environment”, continued to operate and had been instrumental in referring matters to ACLEI for further investigation.

“In addition, the Department has provided supplemental funding to ACLEI to ensure matters relating to its own officers can be fully and independently investigated.”


Menthol cigarettes banned by EU under stringent new tobacco laws

Plain packaging has made the headlines but new regulations will also crack down on flavoured tobacco

New rules forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain, olive green packets come into force on Friday. But restrictions on packets are only part of a raft of new EU regulations that include a ban on menthol cigarettes.

Most headlines have focused on standardised packaging, aimed at reducing the appeal of tobacco products, which Parliament voted for shortly before last year’s general election after an amount of prevarication by the Government.

Less publicised is the European Tobacco Products Directive, which the UK legislation builds on but has been held up by legal challenges from big tobacco companies.

Under the directive, picture health warnings must cover 65 per cent of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with additional warnings on the top of the pack.

It includes a ban on flavoured and menthol cigarettes and “lipstick-style” packs aimed at women – all packs must have at least 20 cigarettes to leave room for health warnings – and a ban on promotional statements such as “this product is free of additives” or “is less harmful than other brands”.

The directive also allowed the UK to go further and introduce its own regulations requiring all tobacco packaging to be uniformly olive green with large images designed to act as health warnings.

While many of the new rules on tobacco, including plain packaging in Britain, come in this week, the ban on menthol tobacco comes into force on 20 May 2020.

The latest legal challenge is being brought by the tobacco firms Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

A ruling was expected on Thursday in the High Court on a challenge to the legality of the new British rules on plain packaging.

The firms sought a judicial review of the UK’s Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, which the companies say will destroy their highly valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

Earlier this month, in a separate legal challenge, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Tobacco Products Directive is lawful.

The ruling is likely to have an influence on the High Court’s decision, which will be made by Mr Justice Green, and campaigners are confident that the tobacco firms will not succeed.

The new rules are an attempt to cut the number of smokers across the EU by 2.4 million. An estimated 700,000 smoking-related premature deaths are caused in the EU each year, and cancer charities are backing the measures.

Going graphic: shock photos on German cigarette packs

Smokers in Germany will have to face gruesome photos on cigarette packs starting May 20. In other countries, images of black lungs on tobacco packaging are already routine.

The slogan’s not enough

So far, cigarette packs in Germany only come with slogans like “Smoking kills.” But starting May 20, tobacco companies have to cover two thirds of the packaging with deterrent images. With the new law, Germany is implementing a 2014 EU regulation. “Our goal is to prevent young people from starting to smoke,” Social Democrat drug policy spokesman Burkhard Blienert said.


Big Tobacco looks to ecigarettes to light up sector

From Friday all cigarettes manufactured in the UK must be boxed in plain packaging, adorned with large, graphic photos highlighting the dangers of smoking.

The new rules — upheld by the High Court on Thursday — provide another hurdle for the tobacco industry to clear, as it battles high taxes, declining smoking rates, and new EU legislation banning packs of 10 cigarettes and flavoured products such as menthol.

Retailers in the UK will face a hit of at least £90m to profits over 10 years as a result of consumers ditching premium brands, according to the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

The cost will put more pressure on the big tobacco groups — British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Imperial Tobacco — which are already investing heavily in ecigarettes and other “reduced-risk” products as they seek to maintain profit growth.

Despite the obstacles, annual profits at BAT and Imperial have risen handsomely in recent years, with pre-tax profits reaching £5.6bn and £2.6bn respectively in 2015. Net annual profit growth at BAT has averaged 17 per cent since 2003, yet ecigarettes account for less than 1 per cent of total revenues.

Since the turn of the century, the proportion of UK smokers has fallen from 16 per cent to 11 per cent, and although Big Tobacco has compensated for the drop in volumes by bumping up prices, many realise this is not sustainable in the long term.

The shift to new revenue streams for tobacco groups is illustrated by the dramatic change that has taken place at BAT’s premises in Southampton, which at its peak produced 35bn cigarettes a year.

That factory — BAT’s last in the UK — closed in 2007. On the same site today, men in white coats are using test-tubes hooked up to computers to analyse the output from the company’s latest ecigarettes and develop “next-generation products”.

BAT has invested £500m in the past five years developing ecigarettes and other reduced-risk products, pinning its hopes on this providing a strong source of revenue in the future. “I’m not sure this business will pay my pension, but if you’re a management trainee joining today, it may pay yours,” says Kingsley Wheaton, head of next generation products at BAT.

In addition to its research output, BAT’s Southampton laboratory is responsible for ensuring the company’s latest ecigarettes are compliant with strict EU legislations due to come into force this month.

One machine mimics a human mouth and takes a three-second drag on one of its ecigarettes. The resulting vapour is captured in a small, purple vial, which a scientist places into a box the size of a microwave. The vapour is analysed and a computer breaks down its chemical composition.

“Each spike on the graph represents one chemical, and its height reflects its frequency in the puff,” says one BAT scientist. “From this ecigarette, we’ve detected around 90 chemicals. In a traditional cigarette, there are over one thousand.”

A report from the Royal College of Physicians last month said ecigarettes were 95 per cent safer than traditional tobacco products — a conclusion that Public Health England also reached.

But growth of these products is already slowing. “Ecigarettes could be the next big thing, but currently, the products are not good enough, and that’s why they haven’t taken any significant share from traditional tobacco sales,” says James Bushnell, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. “The nicotine delivery is not potent enough. They may find a way to improve that, but until they do, the ecigarette is to be proven.”

Tobacco companies are battling larger independent ecigarette makers, such as Multivape and Jamucci, to formulate a product that can dominate a heavily fragmented market.

BAT has recently launched its own high-tech ecigarette in the UK, the Vape Ebox. Philip Morris International is due to release a new device in the UK next year, while Imperial Tobacco has launched its blu PLUS+, a model it says has “the look and feel” of a real cigarette.

Analysts say that selling ecigarettes is very different to traditional tobacco — more reminiscent of the razor-and-blades type model, in which the initial product is sold at a low margin, and the top-up equipment, in this case liquids, is sold at a higher one.

Mr Wheaton insists BAT can generate as much money from an ecigarette user as from a traditional smoker. But only a fraction of non-smokers are taking up vaping — prompting fears the big groups could simply be shifting a shrinking consumer group on to a different product.

Mr Wheaton counters that, saying the total number of nicotine users is growing for the first time in decades. “For the first time in a long time, I think BAT sits in a growing industry,” he says.

But analysts stress there is a long way to go, even if the right product is found. “[Ecigarettes are] probably the future, but at the moment they represent less than 1 per cent of the tobacco market,” says Natasha Kendall, tobacco analyst at Nielsen.

The tobacco industry is not happy with the way Australia got its residents to quit smoking

Tobacco juggernaut Philip Morris is pissed about Australia providing people with truthful advertising, so it sued the country in secret.

In 2012, Australia moved to remove all branding from cigarette packs, replacing them instead with plain-label packages displaying smoking harms — a move copied by France and Britain.

According to a 2015 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, tobacco consumption has fallen nearly 3%, the Guardian reported — potentially as a result of the plain-label legislation.

“The minister welcomes any decrease in smoking rates and believes several factors have likely contributed, including education campaigns, excise increases and plain packaging,” Fiona Nash, a spokeswoman for the assistant health minister, told the Guardian in 2015.

Philip Morris tried to fight back by suing on the grounds of “an abuse of rights,” according to the Guardian.

But after a 2015 closed-door hearing held in Singapore, the presiding tribunal decided the Morris claims were “inadmissible” and “precluded from exercising jurisdiction over this dispute.”

The best part is that companies like Philip Morris have tried legal routes like this before, claiming — no kidding — “the new rules impinge on their trademark intellectual property,” according to a MedicalX press release.

By which they probably meant, “It’s hard to sell cigarettes when you show people what cigarettes actually do.”

Fortunately, because Australia has its priorities straight, Nash concluded, “Plain packaging is a legitimate public health measure which is consistent with Australia’s international legal obligations.”

Tobacco firms vow to fight on against plain packaging following High Court defeat

Two of the world’s biggest tobacco companies have vowed to continue to fight plain packaging in the UK, after the High Court today rejected a bid by the cigarette industry to prevent the introduction of the new law.

Plain packets of cigarettes will be officially imposed tomorrow after Mr Justice Green dismissed a challenge against the measure by four industry giants: British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Imperial Tobacco, and Philip Morris International (PMI).

BAT and JTI immediately said they would seek to appeal the ruling, which means that brands and logos will be banned and packets must be a standardised green-brown, with graphic health warnings. Tobacco companies have a year to sell through their old stock.

The cigarette-makers had argued that the controversial law deprived them of their intellectual property without receiving compensation. They also said the evidence from Australia, the first country in the world to impose plain packaging in December 2012, showed it had been ineffective in discouraging people from smoking.

However, in a ruling that ran to 386 pages, Mr Justice Green decided in favour of the Government, which seeks to cut smoking rates and stop children from picking up the habit.

“The regulations were lawful when they were promulgated by Parliament and they are lawful now in the light of the most uptodate evidence,” he said. “There is a significant moral angle which is embedded in the regulations which is about saving children from a lifetime of addiction, and children and adults from premature death and related suffering and disease.”

Deborah Arnott, the head of anti-smoking charity Ash, described the ruling as a “crushing defeat for the tobacco industry”.

But a spokesman for Dunhill manufacturer BAT claimed it was “by no means the final word on the lawfulness of plain packaging”, claiming the judgement “contains a number of fundamental errors of law”.

JTI, the other company that plans to appeal, said: “This decision sets a dangerous precedent for intellectual property rights and investment. Other consumer goods industries must now worry that their branding is under threat from political opportunism, rather than examining the evidence.”

Both Imperial and PMI said they were “disappointed” with the ruling.

It is a blow to the cigarette industry, which earlier this month also failed in an attempt to block new European Union rules that bans 10-packs and forces manufacturers to put health warnings on 65pc of packaging. The EU regulations also come into force tomorrow.

Debt rating agency Moody’s said tobacco companies should be able to mitigate plain packaging, but warned that measure “could reduce cigarette volumes and brand value over time, and there is also the risk that consumers could trade down to cheaper brands.”

Shares in BAT and Imperial, which are both listed in London, fell 1.9pc and 0.6pc respectively, although the latter was trading exdividend.

EELI’s Anti-EPA Suit Uses ‘Exhibit A’ from Tobacco’s RICO Loss

This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup cross-posted from DailyKos.

Apologies dear reader, this is a long post. It’s worth reading, though, we promise!

With few exceptions (like this weak WSJ column), the folks defending Exxon from RICO accusations focus their attention on the free speech argument and avoid the tobacco comparison. But now one of their own, Dr. James Enstrom, has provided a painfully clear connection between the beleaguered industries.

The Daily Caller carries the news that the Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s (EELI) latest attempt to waste its (probably coal) funders’ money is a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming an independent review panel for air quality regulations isn’t actually independent. Their reason is that members of the panel have received funding from the EPA for past studies.

Obviously, that’s ridiculous, since public and private funding are vastly different in terms of conflict of interest.

So what does a real conflict of interest look like? For a prime example, look no further than the plaintiffs EELI is representing: The Western States Trucking Association (WSTA) and Dr. James Enstrom.

Now, the WSTA has a legitimate stake here, as the regulation in question deals with particulate matter emissions from trucks, so the organization’s members would face a cost to upgrade their trucks to meet stricter EPA standards. Fine.

But who is Dr. James Enstrom? Oh, he’s just your run of the mill epidemiologist who took funding from tobacco giant Philip Morris and produced a study in 2003 downplaying the connection between second-hand smoke and cancer. Enstrom was such a pivotal player in the pro-smoking propaganda that when the Department of Justice wrapped up its successful RICO case against the tobacco industry, it dedicated an entire chapter to Enstrom—one of just three researchers to receive such a distinction. (H/T DeSmog)

A search of his name in the Tobacco Industry Documents database returns over 500,000 results. An LA Times article notes that Enstrom became “Exhibit A” in the fight between the tobacco industry and anti-smoking activists, a prime example of how the tobacco industry funded friendly studies for PR and lobbying purposes.

Since then, Dr. Enstrom has turned his attention to other epidemiology questions, namely the dangers from particulate matter. And who funded his work? None other than an electric utility group, which used his study to argue against stricter PM standards that would force utilities to reduce the pollution from coal plants.

So even as the fossil fuel industry fights off RICO accusations and denies the tobacco parallels, its surrogate EELI is fighting to give “Exhibit A” from the tobacco corruption case a chance to use his industry-funded science to shape the EPA’s regulations.

Though connecting the dots between tobacco corruption and fossil fuels looks like a colossal own-goal, maybe EELI isn’t as foolish as this makes them seem. After all, if the fossil fuel industry needs to defend itself from a RICO suit like the tobacco industry did, surely EELI will offer their services?

And odds are slim they’d do it pro bono…

Peer tables motion to kill vaping rules

Plain pack rules set to come into force tomorrow

A motion has been tabled in the House of Lords to annul the UK implementation of the EU’s new tobacco directive, which comes into effect tomorrow, potentially triggering a debate and a vote.

Motion SI 2015/507 was tabled by Lord Callanan, the former MEP and leader of the Conservatives in Europe. Callanan attempted to temper new regulations which included e-cigarettes, now enshrined as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations of 2016 (PDF) while an MEP.

The motion calls for the TRP regulations to be annulled “on the grounds that its restrictions … were devised before evidence had accumulated that vaping was enabling many people to quit smoking”.

An online petition in support of Lord Callanan’s motion has collected almost 7,000 signatures in just two hours.


On April 21 2016, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) received a letter from Dr. Gary Johns, on behalf of his client the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC). The letter is riddled with false accusations against SEATCA, mischaracterizations of fact and law, disparaging comments about the World Health Organization (WHO) and the FCTC Convention Secretariat (FCS) and the Parties to the FCTC. Because SEATCA does not engage with the tobacco industry and its representatives, it has decided to publish an open letter in response.


19 May 2016

Dr. Gary Johns,

Queensland, Australia

We are taken aback by the accusations hurled against our organization and we find unacceptable the disrespect shown to us. We feel it is necessary that this intimidation ceases and that the misinformation you conveyed is addressed.

The letter you wrote on behalf of ITIC contains false accusations against SEATCA, disparaging remarks about the World Health Organization (WHO)/ Framework Convention Secretariat (FCS), misinterpretations of facts and law, particularly of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO.

You also used rulings/opinions from authorities of five governments, namely Philippines, Germany, India, Netherlands, and European Commission, to attempt to show that “the work of ITIC does not violate Article 5.3 and the Convention,” when none of these governments have in any manner, in these documents or elsewhere, made an official announcement to that effect.

Let me start by stating that SEATCA is a non-profit, civil society organization working to save lives from the many devastating harms of tobacco use. We take our work very seriously, because of the six million deaths (of which half a million are from the ASEAN region) caused annually by tobacco products that are made, promoted, and sold by profit-oriented tobacco companies.

On the other hand, it is quite plain to see that ITIC represents the interests of the tobacco industry. Aside from the fact that ITIC has a longstanding relationship with the tobacco industry (as documented on the University of Bath’s website) and that executive officials of the four largest multinational tobacco companies sit on the ITIC board of directors, ITIC has made statements and published reports that advance tobacco industry interests, and at least two of such reports were financed by Philip Morris International.

You asserted that “ITIC does not work on any public health issues” hence, its work on tobacco taxation does not take into account the World Bank’s identification of tobacco tax increases as a cost-effective measure for tobacco control and a key intervention for health outcomes. It completely ignores the fact that tobacco taxation had been classified as a public health issue by Parties to the FCTC. Disregarding the public health dimension of taxation as documented in the FCTC and its guidelines is an affront to the collective wisdom of the 180 governments that adopted the guidelines based on international best practice.

On behalf of ITIC, you asserted that SEATCA “inaccurately criticized the work of ITIC and mischaracterized its role”. You referred to our critiques as “false statements” and “mischaracterizes ITIC’s work.”

The critiques of ITIC’s three reports are well-researched, detailed, and as accurate as possible. These were written in collaboration with much-respected professionals. On this note, we want to point out the sheer inaccuracy of your statement: “Of 180 Parties to the Convention only 16 are signatories to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.” Publicly available information shows that there are 54 signatories to the Protocol. And there is no mischaracterization of ITIC’s role because, as stated above, it represents the interests of the tobacco industry.

You alleged that “SEATCA is an opaque organization. There is no public document that displays your members, or your executive, or anything remotely suggesting good governance. There is no indication of your sources of income.”

Asserting that a civil society organization lacks transparency and accountability in the same breath as challenging the messages it sends is a distasteful way to silence civil society voices. We refuse to dignify this approach by providing you with organizational information but suffice it to say that you would have found all the information you needed if you looked in the right places.

You claimed that SEATCA “refused to operate in an open manner” and “operates under the false protection of Article 5.3 of the Convention, which, among other things, seeks to ’improve the transparency and accountability of policy-making in the tobacco control process’.”

SEATCA does not engage with the tobacco industry and its representatives. SEATCA’s decision is soundly based on the principle that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests, a guiding principle fully recognized by the 180 States Parties to the FCTC. This principle is the basis for the state’s obligation to protect tobacco control policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry (FCTC’s Article 5.3).

SEATCA is actually open to discussion with partners other than the tobacco industry and those representing its interests in accordance FCTC’s Article 5.3. Referring to it as “false protection,” shows disregard for the treaty and the Parties’ commitment thereto. You also mention Article 5.3 Guideline’s transparency provision but left out the essence of it, which is to require transparency from the tobacco industry and from those who interact with it when strictly necessary for regulation.

You stated that SEATCA “sees itself as an instrument of the World Health Organization and its Framework Convention Secretariat.”

This statement undermines the credibility of many international and regional non-governmental groups that work closely with inter-governmental organizations. SEATCA is a civil society network that works independently of the WHO and FCS. The fact that SEATCA was granted observer status by the FCTC Conference of Parties (COP), like many other organizations, does not make it an instrument thereof.

Such a statement is also laden with innuendo that there is the possibility for the FCS to be treating civil society organizations as “instruments.” This type of reference could damage the reputation of the FCS as it undermines the trust and partnership developed by the FCS with CSOs over time.

In addition, the criticism you made of the WHO/FCS having “excluded reputable authorities such as Interpol from its illicit trade work” is actually a direct challenge to the judgment made by a body comprising of about 180 governments (the COP); for it is the COP that decided to defer reviewing Interpol’s application as observer due to the organization’s receipt of tobacco funding.

Finally, you claim that ITIC’s repeated attempts to engage were in good faith. And yet, by your own admission, you stated that ITIC’s aim was “to provide opportunities (for SEATCA) to rectify (its) comments and mischaracterization.” Attempts to engage with the intention of making the other party rectify supposed errors show prejudice and are not a manifestation of good faith.

SEATCA will not tolerate any more offensive statements. It is simply unacceptable for organizations representing the multinational corporate sector to intimidate civil society organizations that support government implementation of a human rights and public health treaty that aims to prevent deaths from a deadly product.


Ms.Bungon Ritthiphakdee
Executive Director

Address: Thakolsuk Place, Thod-dumri road, Dusit, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand.