Tobacco Industry Interferes in implementing global tobacco treaty
During the 10th International Week of Resistance to Tobacco Transnationals (IWR) during 4-8 October 2010, civil society groups from around the world told the world: how tobacco industry interferes in the implementation of the global tobacco treaty, formally known as the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Thailand, was one of the countries where veteran tobacco control stalwarts like Professor (Dr) Prakit Vathisathokit, shared how tobacco industry interferes in the implementation of global tobacco treaty and also in enforcing their domestic tobacco control policies in the country. Prof (Dr) Prakit is the Executive Secretary of ASH Thailand.
"When we made a decision to increase the size of pictorial warning on tobacco packages in Thailand, tobacco companies had some movement against us. These companies sent the letter to object to this move to increase size of pictorial warnings, and asked for the supportive evidence to prove that the bigger size of pictorial warning will help people quit tobacco use" Prof (Dr) Prakit said. Professor (Dr) Prakit Vathisathokit is also a Bloomberg International Awardee on pictorial warnings (2009).
According to Prof (Dr) Prakit, over 6 million Thai people have quit smoking during 1996 - 2006. Referring to the Baltimore study, he points out that around 1.6 million Thai people didn't begin to smoke because of the effective pictorial warning on the cigarette packages.
"Another case is the 'Article 9: Regulation of the contents of tobacco products' of the WHO-FCTC, which is about disclosing the ingredients of a tobacco product on the pack. The tobacco transnational companies mobilized the tobacco growers around the world against implementing Article 9 of WHO-FCTC and even in Thailand, we are yet to reach a conclusion owing to this interference" said Prof (Dr) Prakit. In the forthcoming Conference of the Parties (COP-4) meeting of the WHO-FCTC in Uruguay (15-20 November 2010), this is going to be one of the contentious issues on implementing Article 9 of WHO-FCTC.
"Even though the law doesn't allow it, we often see that the tobacco transnational companies have tried to interfere indirectly in health policy, by exploiting the loopholes in the law, using the name of the company to support activities with school or other events, and often sponsor the concert which is illegal. They don't want to let Thai government come up with a more effective law that will strengthen the tobacco control" said Prof (Dr) Prakit.
Prof (Dr) Prakit said: "This [known examples of how tobacco industry is interfering in implementation of global tobacco treaty] is what we have seen often in our country, but how about the other things that we don't know [on how tobacco industry is interfering in implementing the global tobacco treaty."
The 10th International Week Resistance to Tobacco Transnationals (IWR) reminds us that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that the governments around the world put people before profit, and protect public health policy from tobacco industry interference. Maybe it's time for us to monitor tobacco transnational companies more vigilantly and put more pressure on the law enforcement agencies for closing the loopholes in the existing tobacco control laws.
Jittima Jantanamalaka - CNS
(The author is the Managing Director of Jay Inspire Co. Ltd (JICL), produces radio programmes in northern Thailand and writes for Citizen News Service (CNS). She is also the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI) in Thailand. Website: www.jay-inspire.com, Email: email@example.com)