World No Tobacco Day is today Manjari Peiris
The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan has chosen "Tobacco Industry Interference" as the theme of World No Tobacco Day which falls on 31st May, 2012.
The campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's blatant and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) because of the serious danger they pose to public health.
Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless we act, it will kill up to 8 million people by 2030, of which more than 80% will live in low- and middle-income countries.
As more and more countries move fully to meet their obligations under the WHO FCTC, the tobacco industry's efforts to undermine the treaty are becoming more and more energetic.
Meanwhile, the industry's attempts to undermine the treaty continue on other fronts, particularly with regard to countries' attempts to ban smoking in enclosed public places and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
On this World No Tobacco Day, policy-makers, media and the general public should be educated about the tobacco industry's nefarious and harmful tactics.
It will also be in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the WHO FCTC. The preamble of the treaty recognizes "the need to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts and the need to be informed of activities of the tobacco industry that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts".
In addition, Article 5.3 of the treaty states that "in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties to the FCTC should act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law and the Parties are encouraged to implement those guidelines to the extent possible in accordance with their national law".
Use of the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the Convention will have an overarching impact on countries’ tobacco control policies and on implementation of the Convention, because the guidelines recognize that tobacco industry interference, including that from the State-owned tobacco industry, cuts across a number of tobacco control policy areas, as stated in the Preamble of the Convention, articles referring to specific tobacco control policies and the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The guidelines are applicable to government officials, representatives and employees of any national, state, provincial, municipal, local or other public or semi/quasi-public institution or body within the jurisdiction of a Party, and to any person acting on their behalf. Any government branch (executive, legislative and judiciary) responsible for setting and implementing tobacco control policies and for protecting those policies against tobacco industry interests should be accountable.
The measures recommended in these guidelines aim at protecting against interference not only by the tobacco industry but also, as appropriate, by organizations and individuals that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry.
The tobacco industry produces and promotes a product that has been proven scientifically to be addictive, to cause disease and death and to give rise to a variety of social ills, including increased poverty. Therefore, Parties should protect the formulation and implementation of public health policies for tobacco control from the tobacco industry to the greatest extent possible. When dealing with the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, to operate and act it should be in a manner accountable and transparent.
Since tobacco is a lethal product, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses. Any preferential treatment of the tobacco industry would be in conflict with tobacco control policy.
Thus the treaty recommends the following; Raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about tobacco industry interference with Parties’ tobacco control policies.
Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur.
Reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry.
Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.
Make compulsory that information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.
Treat State-owned tobacco industry in the same way as any other tobacco industry.
Monitoring implementation of Article 5.3 of the Convention and of these guidelines is essential for ensuring the introduction and implementation of efficient tobacco control policies. This should also involve monitoring the tobacco industry, for which existing models and resources should be used, such as the database on tobacco industry monitoring of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative.
Nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society not affiliated with the tobacco industry could play an essential role in monitoring the activities of the tobacco industry.
Codes of conduct or staff regulations for all branches of governments should include a “whistleblower function”, with adequate protection of whistleblowers. In addition, Parties should be encouraged to use and enforce mechanisms to ensure compliance with these guidelines, such as the possibility of bringing an action to court, and to use complaint procedures such as an ombudsman system. On World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout the following year, WHO will urge countries to put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic.
In a population of 20 million, every year over 20,000 Sri Lankans die of tobacco related diseases. Though Sri Lanka was the first Asian country which ratified the FCTC in 2003, and the FCTC required Parties to implement the regulation on warnings to cover at least 50% of the cigarette packs with pictorial health warnings highlighting the harm of smoking within three years from 2005, Sri Lanka is now four years behind the prescribed schedule.
The entire health community and the civil society in Sri Lanka are highly disappointed over the long delay in implementing the Pictorial Health Warning regulation which is Article 11 of the FCTC.
This long standing delay is a good example to prove industry interference in policy matters while influencing administrators!