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Tobacco industry interference in public health policy poses the single greatest threat to society, realising the full potential of the life-saving measures of the global tobacco treaty.
The tobacco industry has used its political and economic power for generations by lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product and to prevent effective public health policies and regulations.


In this process they have historically employed a multitude of tactics to shape and influence tobacco control policy. We should not forget the fact the tobacco industry produces and promotes a product that has been scientifically proven to be highly addictive and destructive, and lethal to exacerbate social ills, including extreme poverty.




This situation changed to a greater extent when the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched negotiations on a global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The treaty entered into force as international law in 2005 and is now in effect in over 174 countries.
The tobacco industry indulges in corporate social responsibility activities through youth smoking prevention and development programmes to enhance their image of corporate goodwill. The industry forms alliances with farmers, the hospitality industry, wholesalers and retailers and files last-minute suits challenging laws governing the use of tobacco products.
Worldwide tobacco companies seek to develop relationships with journalists, to create positive media coverage of the tobacco industry by the tone and content of their articles. Tobacco companies have sponsored media symposia, training and offered all expenses paid trips to promote their respective companies and discuss tobacco issues.
The public and the media have limited knowledge and understanding of the health and economic consequences of tobacco use and the tobacco industry’s tactics to increase sales.




Tobacco, still kills 5.4 million people around the world every year. The WHO projects the death toll from tobacco will rise to eight million by 2030. Broad implementation of the global tobacco treaty could save up to 200 million lives by 2050, because it:
Gives governments the right to prioritize the health of their citizens over trade and commercial interests;
Protects public health policy from interference by tobacco corporations through Article 5.3;
Bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
Establishes important precedents for international regulation of other industries that   endanger public health, the environment and human rights.




Recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about tobacco industry interference with Parties’ tobacco control policies.
Recommendation 2: Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure then transparency of those interactions that occur.
Recommendation 3: Reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry.
Recommendation 4: Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.
Recommendation 5: Require that information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.
Recommendation 6: De-normalise and, to the extent possible, regulate activities described as ‘socially responsible’ by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as ‘corporate social responsibility.




While Parties make progress to implement the FCTC and the Article 5.3 Guidelines, Big Tobacco is not giving up efforts to aggressively challenge, weaken and undermine lifesaving comprehensive tobacco control measures.
The ASEAN region has been a target ‘expansion market’ for the tobacco industry. Access to high level government officials is an important tactic for the industry to secure a foot hold in the region.
The FCTC Article 11 guidelines state that Pictorial Health Warnings
Are more likely to be noticed;
Are rated more effective by tobacco users;
Are more likely to remain salient over time;
Better communicate the health risks of tobacco use;
Provoke more thought about the health risks of tobacco use and about cessation;
Increase motivation and intention to quit; and
Are associated with more attempts to quit.




Tobacco industry worldwide recruitment efforts are seemingly aimed at hiring staff directly from the tobacco control community.
The tobacco industry is not and cannot be a “stakeholder” when it comes to the public health, because of its fundamental conflict of interest with public health goals. However, tobacco corporations and their agents are increasingly seeking to meet with government officials and civil society leaders.
Tobacco giants do not simply target health ministries and health-related NGOs. In fact, they often use other issues as entry points: trade, agriculture, consumer rights, youth protection, environmental and workplace safety, taxation and pricing.
Remember that policies in any of these areas have a potential impact on public health and tobacco control.




Meetings with the tobacco industry rarely advance tobacco control initiatives. From Big Tobacco’s perspective, such meetings serve several objectives:
Improve the corporation’s image and enhance its credibility;
Gather information about government and NGO strategies;
Reframe the debate around issues of “rights” and participation, rather than public health.
Government officials should learn how the tobacco industry is interfering with public policy and implement the recommendations outlined in the Article 5.3 Guidelines and support adoption of effective guidelines on FCTC Articles 9 & 10  12 (education, communication, training and public awareness), and 14 (demand reduction measures – dependence and cessation) that protect against industry interference in accordance with the Article 5.3 Guidelines.
All media should support tobacco control by writing stories on the FCTC and tobacco industry attempts to interfere with public health policy and also should monitor and document tobacco industry activities in their country. Civil society too should be built to challenge the tobacco industry by enlightening them on their rights to health and environmental protection.
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