Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Report accuses Big Tobacco of blocking treaty

Tobacco industry watchdog, Corporate Accountability International, and its allies, on Monday, released a report documenting widespread tobacco industry interference in the implementation of the global tobacco treaty (formally known as the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control).
The report’s release kicks off a string of grassroots actions in dozens of countries leading up to November’s treaty meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay. At stake are nearly 200 million lives - the number of lives the World Health Organisation projects would be spared by 2050 if the treaty takes full effect - and the tobacco industry interference remains the single greatest obstacle to this objective. During this year’s 10th International Week of Resistance to Tobacco Transnationals, which began on Monday, the anti-tobacco groups say that their actions will expose industry obstructionism in countries around the globe which they hope would build momentum going into the November meeting.
Showing solidarity
The Week is also an opportunity for the global community to speak out in solidarity with Uruguay; Philip Morris International is suing Uruguay for implementing a treaty provision requiring stronger cigarette pack health warning labels. “Big Tobacco first tried to bully the global community out of advancing this treaty. Now it’s attempting to bully countries out of enforcing it,” said Gigi Kellett, the Director of Corporate Accountability International’s campaign Challenging Big Tobacco. “Still, our findings indicate that the industry’s resolve to defy the law is matched only by civil society’s resolve to end industry intimidation,” he said.
The report cited some of the tactics used by the tobacco industry to undermine treaty implementation to include the donation of $200 million to the Columbian government by Philip Morris International following the adoption of treaty implementation legislation to “address areas of mutual interest;” the appointment of a former British American Tobacco executive, Kenneth Clarke, as Justice Minister - he would oversee a recent lawsuit by BAT and its competitors against a new law cracking down on tobacco product displays; and engaging in a string of lawsuits regarding tobacco product displays, packaging, and health warning labels from Australia and the Philippines to Norway. All of these tactics, the groups say, are in direct defiance of the treaty, specifically its Article 5.3, which deems such industry interference to be in fundamental conflict with the treaty’s public health aims.
Slow progress
The report also finds that Article 5.3 is being used to great effect globally to insulate the treaty’s implementation against the tobacco industry. Action ranges from Mauritius becoming the first country to ban all tobacco industry “corporate social responsibility” schemes to Panama’s prohibiting government agencies and officials from accepting tobacco industry contributions. “Those countries, large and small, that refuse to be intimidated, are emboldening others to follow their lead,” said Philip Jakpor, spokesperson for Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT).
“The success of the November treaty meeting will be measured by the number of Parties that return to their countries with a plan to root out industry interference. Millions of lives are on the line,” Mr Jakpor said. In Nigeria, the Senate Committee on Health held a Public Hearing on the Tobacco Control Bill in July last year and the bill is still awaiting passage into law at senate’s plenary. Each year, tobacco kills more than five million people and 80 percent of those deaths are in low-income countries, where treaty implementation represents some of the first efforts at tobacco control.
One hundred and seventy-one countries have ratified the global tobacco treaty since its entry into force in 2005. Today, the treaty protects more than 87 percent of the world’s population.