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Advocacy

#DortmundKills campaign: the legal, moral and ethical case against Inter-tabac Asia

30 Jan, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

As reported in News Analysis in the January edition of Tobacco Control, the Dortmund city-owned company Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH (Germany) is organising Inter-tabac Asia, a trade fair for the tobacco industry, to be held on the Indonesian island of Bali on 27 & 28 February. An international campaign against the event has attracted support from around the world, and a petition on change.org has been signed by more than 11,5000 people. The Dortmund mayor has indicated he will refuse to receive the petition. Meanwhile, the Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has reportedly blocked the fair, drawing praise from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

On January 10, Pascal Diethelm, President of Swiss NGO OxyRomandie, joined nearly 18 international health organisations and German politicians in sending an open letter to the mayor of Dortmund, the Honourable Ullrich Sierau, urging the cancellation of Inter-tabac Asia 2014. On 23 January, he received a reply from Dr Andreas Weber, from the Marketing and Corporate Communications Department at Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH. In it, Dr Weber advises that the trade fair is directed at professional visitiors, and that children and young people are not permitted. He goes on to state: Tobacco is a legal product in Indonesia, as it is in Germany. Economic stakeholders therefore have a right to a trading platform of this kind, as in any other industry. Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH respects all political laws and regulations in countries where it organises trade fairs and will of course continue to do so in the future.”

Mr Diethelm’s response, reproduced in full below, outlines how Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund Gmbh’s organisation of Inter-tabac likely breaches Germany’s legal obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco or Health, as well as the moral and ethical implications of its involvement:

Dear Mr Dr Weber,

Thank you for communicating to us the position of Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH concerning the organization of Inter-tabac ASIA 2014 by the city of Dortmund.

Unfortunately, I have to say that your company’s statement misses our point entirely.

The official implication of the municipality of Dortmund in such an event, even indirectly through your company, of which the city of Dortmund is the sole shareholder, clearly violates Germany’s legal obligations emanating from article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty ratified by your country on 16 December 2004. The treaty was also ratified by the European Union on 30 June 2005 and all EU Member States are now Parties to the treaty, which could therefore be also considered as providing a European  legal framework for tobacco control.

The Guidelines on Article 5.3 of the treaty (see attached German translation) indicate to parties how to fulfill their obligations emanating from the Convention. The city of Dortmund breaches several key dispositions of these Guidelines:

-      It violates point 2.1 which states that “Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate  the tobacco industry and tobacco products.” The organization of Inter-tabac ASIA by the city of Dortmund can hardly be described as “strictly necessary.”

-      It violates point 3.1, which states that “Parties should not accept, support or endorse partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements as well as any voluntary arrangement with the tobacco industry or any entity or person working to further its interests.” The organization of Inter-tabac ASIA will inevitably lead the city of Dortmund, via Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH, to conclude multiples agreements with the tobacco companies who are exhibitors in the tobacco trade fair.

-      It violates point 4.7, which states that “Government institutions and their bodies should not have any financial interest in the tobacco industry.” By organizing Inter-tabac ASIA, the city of Dortmund has a vested interest in the tobacco industry. The return on its investment is directly linked to the commercial success of its exhibitors, the tobacco companies.

-      It violates point 7.1, which states that “Parties should not grant incentives, privileges or benefits to the tobacco industry to establish or run their businesses.” By facilitating their business in Asia, the city of Dortmund grants privilege and benefits to the tobacco industry.

Your company’s statement misses the point in even a more worrying way. You company does not seem to understand, or even have minimal appreciation, of the ethical and moral implications of the decision of the city of Dortmund to organize a trade fair in Bali aimed at promoting tobacco in Indonesia and Asia.

Currently, tobacco kills 6 million people per year and this toll continues to rise while it is at the same time shifting from the highly developed world to lower income countries. In the 20th Century, tobacco was responsible for 100 million deaths. If nothing is done to change the course of the tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization and all public health authorities predict that the number of tobacco deaths will reach 1 billion in the 21th Century.

In Indonesia, where over two-thirds of the men smoke and where the age of initiation of smoking is commonly below 10, the toll caused by tobacco is taking genocidal proportions. Tobacco kills 260’000 Indonesians each year and this number is rising rapidly. Nowhere in the world can we witness a more striking manifestation of what professor Robert Proctor, historian of science at the University of Stanford, calls the Golden Holocaust.(1)

In such a context, we were stupefied when we read that your company, Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH, and therefore the city of Dortmund, feel comfortable with having contributed to this Golden Holocaust for 30 years, as it claims to have done it “with integrity”. This line of defense evokes some of the darkest memories, having connotations of what Hannah Arendt calls “the banality of evil.

Fortunately, there are people in this world with a conscience, a high sense of morality and who are prepared to act in conformance with their values. This is the case of our tobacco control colleagues in Indonesia, who, with insignificant means compared to the financial power of the tobacco industry, are fighting with courage and determination to reduce the tobacco epidemic in their country and eliminate the grip tobacco multinationals have on it. Over the recent days, they scored a major victory by rallying the support of the Governor of Mali, Made Mangku Pastika. The Governor has publicly announced his commitment to prevent Inter-tabac ASIA from taking place in his province. He has issued orders that no permit be granted to the tobacco trade fair.

This decision of a man with real integrity sends a clear signal to the city of Dortmund, whose reputation is being tarnished in this affair. Let us hope Mr. Ullrich Sierau listens and learns the lesson and does not miss this opportunity to get better educated in the ethical and moral implications of the tobacco trade.(2)

The ties between Dortmund and the tobacco industry are indeed highly detrimental to the city’s reputation: a lot of people in the world now know Dortmund mainly through the slogan “Dortmund Kills.” Your company and the mayor should realize that the city’s involvement in Inter-tabac is irremediably doomed – soon or later, Dortmund will have to give up all activities linked – directly or indirectly – to the tobacco industry and comply with the legal requirements of the FCTC. The tobacco issue is not going to fade away – on the contrary, it is now considered a priority risk factor in the global fight against non-communicable diseases.

Today, the FCTC has 177 Parties, covering 90% of the population of the world. Situations where a public institution is in bed with the tobacco industry are no longer acceptable and will be increasingly targeted as aberrations to eliminate. It is illusory to think that Dortmund’s Inter-tabac will escape this worldwide phenomenon. The sooner Messe Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH will cut all links with the tobacco industry, the better and less painful the process will be. On behalf of my association, I urge your company and the mayor of Dortmund to do it without delay.

Yours sincerely,

Pascal Diethelm

(1)   Proctor, Robert N. (2012). Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition. Berkeley: University of California Press.ISBN 9780520270169

(2)   For example, see : Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (2005). Die Tabakindustriedokumente I: Chemische eränderungen an Zigaretten und Tabakabhängigkeit, Heidelberg (https://www.dkfz.de/…/Tabakindustriedokumente_I.pdf)

 

Japan: Prime Minister appoints tobacco executive to board of national broadcaster

28 Nov, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Earlier this year, tobacco control advocates from around the world supported an effort by their counterparts in Japan to block a proposed appointment of Mr Katsuhiko Honda, former President of Japan Tobacco, to serve on the Board of Governors of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster (Japan’s equivalent of the BBC). Unfortunately, the temporary success there has been fully reversed.

This month, Honda’s name came through again, this time after the summer election where a coalition led by the powerful Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) obtained a majority in the Upper House and accordingly the LDP gained essentially complete control over the nation’s legislative affairs. Renominated by Prime Minister Abe, Mr. Honda’s appointment was approved by both houses of Japan’s national Parliament on Friday 10 November.

According to the University of Hawai’i’s William S. Richardson School of Law Professor Mark Levin, author of a Spring 2013 law journal article on Japanese tobacco control law and policy: “This appointment is troubling for many reasons, work in tobacco control being just one. Nonetheless, the fact that this appointment violates Japan’s international obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article  5.3 seems very clear. At the very least, this matter deserves to be noted and criticised accordingly with regards to international tobacco control advocates’ reports on and discussions with Japan.”

Tobacco control advocates in Japan are dismayed both for the immediate implications to their efforts and the challenge to the application of Article 5.3′s principles more broadly. Katsuhiko Honda still serves as an adviser to Japan Tobacco Inc., while this posting will give him direct authority over important management and policy decisions and presumably indirect sway in NHK’s daily operations as well. The Japan Society for Tobacco Control has condemned the move. (Japanese)

However, Levin points out that context here also matters. “Of course, Mr Honda’s desire to serve might well be driven by his unmitigated pro-tobacco industry agenda. But it’s important to note that the motivation for Abe’s selection of Honda may be barely related to tobacco control, at least from Mr Abe’s perspective.”

As widely reported in the national press, the appointment comes as part of a larger political move by Abe to secure a strong say in the selection of NHK’s next president and general affairs of management and budget. Abe seems to be getting many players in place for a dramatic set of legal, political, and even constitutional changes to swing Japan to the right. In this, Honda is a truly long-standing and trusted friend, having been Abe’s private home academic tutor in the future Prime Minister’s high school days.

 

Shadowy lobbying against Tobacco Products Directive

11 Oct, 13 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

This post is republished with full permission from Tobacco Unpacked.

A guest blog by Andy Rowell, research fellow at the Tobacco Control Research Group, University of Bath, and editor of TobaccoTactics.org

  • Landmark TPD debated in Europe this week.
  • Multi-million-pound lobbying campaign inflicted on Brussels by tobacco industry.
  • This week is crunch time in Brussels for public health.

European Parliament MEPs will debate the landmark Tobacco Products Directive, seen by public health advocates as a crucial measure in reducing the harm from tobacco across the EU.

For the last two-and-a-half years, we have been monitoring the activities of the tobacco industry under a ground-breaking academic project at the University of Bath, which has been part funded by Cancer Research UK. Instead of just focusing our output on academic journals we have also developed a wiki, called TobaccoTactics.org, which has more timely access to our research findings.

SOPHISTICATED PR

Tobacco is unique. No other product kills one in two of its long-term users. If someone invented the cigarette today, it would never make it onto a supermarket shelf. It is now over 60 years since the link between cancer and smoking was first discovered, but millions of us remain addicted.

The reason for this, in part, is one of the most sophisticated and well-funded public relations campaigns ever undertaken by an industry. The tobacco companies set out to deny the scientific evidence of the harmfulness of their product and the addictiveness of nicotine. The object is always to try to sow confusion and doubt and delay action.

Such tactics have again been evident in the multi-million-pound lobbying campaign the industry has inflicted in recent months on Brussels. New leaked documents from Philip Morris International (PMI) reveal the extent of this campaign, which targeted the three pillars of Brussels decision-making: the European Parliament, the European Commission and European Council.

PUSH OR DELAY

The documents reveal that by mid-2012, the overall strategic objective of PMI’s lobbying campaign was to either “Push” (i.e. amend) or “Delay” the Directive and “block” the proposals coming from the relevant Directorate on health, DG Sanco, which was in charge of the proposals. To this end, PMI employed a two-fold technical and political strategy to ensure it received as many “negative opinions” from other Commission DGs as possible, as well as to try and ensure a political commitment from other business-friendly Commissioners to oppose what PMI was labelling as excessive legislation. PMI identified key messages to push in its lobbying campaign, especially in relation to the Inter-Service Consultation between the directorates, arguing there was a need to “break” into the “silo” of the European Commission. The main lobbying messages used by the company were that the TPD proposals lacked “legal basis”, “evidence”, “logic” and a “market analysis”.

“TRIGGER NEGATIVE OPINIONS”

Just as PMI had done fighting proposals on Point of Sale and Plain Packaging in the UK, the tobacco giant was keen to highlight the “illicit trade problem”, despite its historical involvement in smuggling. For more information on this see TobaccoTactics.org on smuggling. The company set out to “trigger negative opinions” amongst other Commissioners or their senior advisors, known as their cabinet, and set out to get other “high-level influencers” to directly engage with the Commissioners. The tobacco companies such as PMI have a history of using so-called third party techniques in their lobbying campaign, using other organisations or people to influence the debate on the industry’s behalf.

The reason is simple: the use of third parties removes the message from the interested messenger. Moreover, the tobacco industry is such a discredited voice that it has to look for someone else to be its ventriloquist dummy. The public or a politician may be sympathetic about a corner shop going out of business, but they would have less sympathy towards an industry which kills its long-term customers and whose profits stretch into billions.

LED BY THIRD PARTIES

The documents reveal that PMI’s anti-TPD lobbying campaign, via social and traditional media, would be “led by third parties”. The tobacco giant identified tobacco growers, small and medium-sized businesses, other trade organisations, unions, suppliers, intellectual property organisations, employers’ associations and even consumer associations to front its campaign for it.
And just as the industry used retailers against Point of Sale Display Ban and Plain Packaging in the UK, so they have been central to PMI’s lobbying campaign in Brussels. PMI outlined how the retailers would lobby other parts of the Commission and “promote events to gain visibility” for the campaign. As well as retailers based in Brussels, national retailers associations across the EU were also brought in to help, too.

Another key constituency to front the campaign were tobacco growers and processors. PMI organised meetings between tobacco growers’ unions, such as UNITAB, the European Association of Tobacco Growers and Fetratab, the European Federation of Tobacco Processors, with key officials at the Commission, including a meeting with the Cabinet of the European President Manuel Barroso.

DIRECT LOBBYING

The leaked documents also outline in detail PMI’s strategy in the European Parliament. This time, the tobacco giant undertook direct lobbying as well as indirect. By mid-2012, nearly a third of MEPs had been lobbied by PMI, some 233 MEPs in total. Some MEPs by then had met the tobacco giant four to five times, with meetings happening on a regular basis. Almost half of the European People’s Party and European centre-right groups met with PMI’s lobbyists, the documents show.

At the parliament, the company also focused its lobbying efforts on two influential committees, ENVI and IMCO. The ENVI committee – Environment, Public Health and Food Safety – was tasked with overseeing the TPD through the Parliament. PMI set out to “Break ENVI’s full control on the dossier.” Heads of national delegations were lobbied, as were the “political heavyweights” from each political party. The company sought to “secure political agreement though top level contacts”.

EXCLUDING MENTHOL FLAVOUR

PMI also set out to lobby the Council, in order to create a “blocking majority” against any public health measures it deemed “extreme”. One of these measures is the banning of certain flavours including menthol. PMI’s objective was “exclude” menthol from the TPD. It wanted to get different member states with “significant menthol segments to oppose a menthol ban in TPD at the Council”.

In order to do this it wanted to “neutralise” lead countries in the menthol debate, such as Germany. The use of language such as this is indicative. Here we have a transnational company effectively planning to politically nullify the most powerful EU country. This multi-million-euro lobbying campaign raises all kinds of issues, two of which are deeply important for public health and the political process. The fact that PMI has had such extensive access to the Commission and hundreds of MEPs is clearly a breach of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 5.3 of the Convention requires signatories to protect their health policies “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”. This clearly has not happened in this case.

VIOLATION OF TOBACCO CONTROL CONVENTION

Last week, 11 public health and transparency NGOs wrote to President of the European Parliament to argue these meetings constitute “a serious violation” of the Convention.

“We are deeply concerned about the astounding level of access to MEPs by tobacco lobbyists which has been exposed in the leaked Philip Morris International documents,” they wrote.

PMI has also voluntarily signed up to the EU’s Transparency Initiative and is meant to accurately record how many lobbyists and how much money it is spending lobbying in Brussels. The documents reveal that PMI has been using a significant number of lobbyists and consultants. One spread-sheet outlines that 161 employees and consultants were engaged in lobbying concerning the TPD. By mid-2012, the documents also reveal, PMI had spent €1.25 million on consultancy and expenses fighting the proposals.

TPD MAY BE PUT BACK YEARS

In contrast, PMI only declares nine lobbyists in its entry to the EU Transparency Register. For the whole of 2012, the company estimated that its lobbying spend had been €1 million–€1.25 million. Behind the scenes we know the lobbying will continue right up to any vote. Via the documents we only have a small snapshot of how widespread and pervasive PMI’s lobbying campaign has been. PMI’s key aims are to reduce the size of health warnings and ensure menthol cigarettes are not banned. If the industry can delay the vote at the Parliament and also at the council again, the whole Directive may be put back years. So, just as it has done many times before, the industry will have delayed action, whilst the profits keep rolling in

Eurovegas and the challenge to Spain’s smoke-free law: neoliberalism vs public health

3 Oct, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Aser García Rada, Madrid

The Spanish law banning smoking in all public premises since January 2010 has become one of the greatest national public health achievements in decades. It modified a previous law from 2006 that banned smoking in enclosed working environments but allowed it in certain bars and restaurants. The tobacco lobby fought strongly against this change as they were interested in exporting what was known as “the Spanish model”: allowing smoking in places of entertainment maintained the social acceptance of a drug that kills 700,000 Europeans annually. To Big Tobacco´s dismay, the 2010 model soon spread to other countries.

According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, smoking prevalence has decreased from 26.2% in 2006 to 23.95% in 2012, the lowest rate in 25 years. Heart attacks have dropped by 11% after the 2006 legislation was established, so further drops are expected from 2010 on. The EU Commission has stated that Spain has experienced the largest decrease in passive smoking of the EU over the last years: 70% less, well above the EU average of 46%. In addition, 82% of the population –including many smokers- agree with current legislation, says a poll by the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SEMFYC). In fact, social acceptance is increasing, according to the last health barometer of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

The current law has only been weakened once. It was done by the previous social democrat Government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero following pressure from the largest Spanish department Store El Corte Inglés to allow the sale of smoking products in convenience stores such as their Opencor chain. Now Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands casino chairman, 12th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans and one of the most important magnates of the gambling industry, has announced the construction of the largest casino resort in Europe in the autonomous community of Madrid, a project popularly known as Eurovegas. Adelson, whose company is under criminal investigation for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and has just agreed to pay $47 million to the U.S. to settle a money-laundering case, has requested that Spain’s smokefree law be weakened to allow  smoking in the casino’s premises. He promises that the casino project will create 200,000 jobs and bring prosperity to the region.

Thus, the regional and national governments are salivating. Amendments to labor and urban planning laws and tax breaks have already been negotiated. The repeated requests from the president of the autonomous community of Madrid, Ignacio González, from the conservative People´s Party (PP), that the central government amends the law seem to be having their effect. Recently the minister of health, social services and equality, Ana Mato, also from the PP, said that the Government is “looking for ways” to “reconcile the protection of health with the creation of jobs”. In fact, according to the newspaper El Mundo, the change has already been decided: smoking will be allowed in certain areas on all current 41 casinos throughout the country and on those to be built in Eurovegas. The daily La Razón states that the law will be amended before November.

The EU Commission considers that the economic impact of banning smoking across the EU has been limited, neutral and even positive in bars and restaurants industry except for maybe on gambling premises, a probably correct estimate according to the available scientific literature. However, the comorbidity between tobacco smoking and gambling seems clear. Tobacco might have neurochemical effects that enhance gambling behaviour (1) and problem gambling severity and amount of money spent, have been related to smoking (2). Must we create further death and disease to have jobs?

Health professionals are fighting the change and the global community is watching. An umbrella platform of different tobacco control organizations (porquenosotrosno.org) has launched the campaign Don´t touch the law to request international support to prevent the weakening of these public health protections. But the tobacco lobby´s tentacles remain long. The presidents of five autonomous communities in which tobacco is cultivated –Extremadura, Andalusia, La Rioja, the Canary Islands and Cantabria-  recently signed a document opposing the new stronger Directive on tobacco control under discussion at the EU during a joint meeting celebrated in the headquarters of the tobacco company Altadis. Meanwhile, according to members of the Directorate General for Health & Consumers of the European Commission, there is a growing concern that former health commissioner John Dalli’s resignation may have been related to Big Tobacco’s strategies.

Health workers and other citizens must be aware of these manoeuvres and press health authorities at all levels that no concessions must be given to tobacco companies or others whose interests in profit threaten public health.

References:

1.- Mcgrath, DS and Barret, SP (2009), The comorbidity of tobacco smoking and gambling: A review of the literature. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28: 676–681. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00097.x

2.- McGrath DS, Barrett SP, Stewart SH, and McGrath PR. A Comparison of Gambling Behavior, Problem Gambling Indices, and Reasons for Gambling Among Smokers and Nonsmokers Who Gamble: Evidence from a Provincial Gambling Prevalence Study Nicotine Tob Res (2012) 14 (7): 833-839

Spain: Government urged not to bow to US casino boss on smoking ban challenge

18 Sep, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

 

Support the DON’T TOUCH THE LAW campaign (http://porquenosotrosno.com/web/smoke-free-spain-eng.html)  

The Spanish National Committee of Smoking Prevention, a coalition of scientific and medical organisations, together with official professional colleges of doctors, nurses, psychologists and dentists, and international health experts, have condemned proposed changes to Spain’s smoke free laws.

Exceptions to the law are being demanded by Sheldon Adelson, a US gambling magnate who wants smoking to be permitted in a casino he plans to build in Madrid. Dubbed EuroVegas, it is expected to be the largest gambling resort in Europe. (BMJ report here.)

The current tobacco act of Spain, introduced in 2010, prohibits smoking in all enclosed public spaces, and enjoys widespread respect and support from the Spanish population. Prior to its introduction, the 2005 act allowed smoking at the bar owner’s discretion.

Government sources are reportedly working on a formula that will legally enable regions to make exceptions in the legislation. According to Spanish media outlet El Pias, Vice President Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría has said that “there is a procedure for amendment of laws”.

Public health doctor Joseba Zabala Galán, coordinator of the grassroots movement Don’t Touch the Law, and member of the board of the Spanish National Committee of Tobacco Prevention said: “Allowing the 17 autonomous communities the ability to establish differences in the smoke-free laws, besides being a legal by-pass, would mean the end of the current Spanish smoke-free model. It would be a terrible precedent that would weaken the current successful strength and collective belief of the smoke-free law as a real and effective health public tool. We urge all concerned citizens and organisations to support our campaign to keep the current law.”

Reports from the Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco #APACT2013 Conference

29 Aug, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Editor’s note: The first edition of the ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas was launched to coincide with the conference. Click here to read additional reporting by SEATCA and download the report. Dr Marewa Glover from the University of Auckland Centre for Tobacco Control Research writes here about how e or m health ideas are an area that need more attention, and here about the importance of helping smokers quit to achieve Endgame goals.

—————

E. Ulysses Dorotheo, MD, FPAO

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Framework Convention Alliance (FCA)

The Asia Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco (APACT) marked a milestone with its 10th APACT Conference in Chiba, Japan last 18-21 August 2013, with a record 785 delegates from 42 nations participating.

In his David Yen Memorial Lecture, Mr. Kyoichi Miyazaki traced the conference’s history back to the visionary advocates who contributed to APACT’s establishment in 1989 and its early years of growth (particularly David Yen, Ted Chen, Judith Mackay, Prakit Vathesatogkit, Gregory Connolly, Richard Daynard, Terry Pechacek, Takeshi Hirayama, David Sweanor, Nigel Gray, Martin Kawano, and Kwan-Mo Chung, among others) in response to pressure to open the Asian markets to United States (US) tobacco companies wishing to invade the region.

Dr. Judith Mackay immediately followed up with a forward-looking plenary lecture on the tobacco endgame in line with the conference theme “Ending the Tobacco Epidemic – Protecting and Keeping Healthy Lives”, and over the next few days, best practices for measures to reduce tobacco consumption, such as optimal tobacco taxation, cost-effective cessation, and smoke-free policy advocacy, were discussed in plenary sessions, symposia, and poster presentations. Particular recognition was given to Australia for legislating the world’s first plain packaging of tobacco products, to Thailand for standing up to Big Tobacco’s intimidation by litigation for requiring the world’s largest (85%) pictorial health warnings, and to New Zealand for trendsetting a 2025 endgame target.

In contrast, the conference also recognized the varying degrees of tobacco control implementation in individual countries and underscored the need for full and accelerated FCTC implementation across our region in order to slow the tobacco death clock. Indonesia, for example, remains the only Asian country not a party to the FCTC, and conference host, Japan, still has no national law to protect the public from secondhand smoke. In this regard, delegates and speakers also shared experiences relating to the increasing incidence and overtness of tobacco industry interference in public policy (e.g. through their so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, litigation against effective tobacco regulation, and stakeholder engagement in international trade policies) and called on governments to immediately and fully implement FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines, to ban CSR activities by the industry, and to explicitly exclude tobacco products from international, regional, and bilateral trade and investment agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement currently being negotiated, noting that, except for the US, all TPP negotiators are Parties to the FCTC.

The 10th APACT further recognized the importance of the youth as future leaders who must be meaningfully engaged to realize the tobacco endgame in the Asia Pacific region, because just as in 1989, continuing collaboration is needed to overcome Big Tobacco, which relentlessly targets young people of Asia for its profits.

The next APACT Conference will be in 2016 in Qingdao, China.

An enormous set of lungs demonstrate in graphic detail the effect of smoking

An enormous set of lungs demonstrate in graphic detail the effect of smoking

Thai youth ask the tobacco industry to withdraw lawsuit against new pictorial health warnings

1 Aug, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Update: On 1 August, 140 youth and students held a protest rally at the World Trade Centre in Bangkok, location of the Philip Morris International offices, to show support for 85% pictorial warnings, and to symbolise “140 deaths from tobacco use every day” in the country.

View a video of the rally here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXsWjL8VplE

youth rally bkk5

Open letter

1 August 2013

To:  Manager of Philip Morris International (Thailand) Limited and Manager of Japan Tobacco International (Thailand) Limited

Subject:  Request to withdraw the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health on the regulation requiring 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages

Due to the lawsuit filed by your company against Ministry of Public Health Thailand on the case of 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages regulation at the Administrative Court, we, Youth Network in Thailand, would like to request you to withdraw this current lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health Thailand.

We are well aware that you have great concern of decreased cigarette sales volume as a result of 85% pictorial health warning regulation. This is because the new warning will provide clearer facts to consumers. In particular, it will raise awareness on Thai children and youth, who are your targets, not to initiate smoking. You should be fully aware that in 2011, there are already 2,200,000 Thai children and youth who are your current customers, not to include 10 million of adult customers. Your company will continue to gain major profit from them in many decades.

You may need to ask yourself whether your effort to avoid compliance to Thai domestic law by filing the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health, in order to increase sales volume of your products by attracting more children and youth to become your customers in the replacement of those who already died or in illness, is ethical practice.

We believe that you have enough expertise to initiate other business that benefits children and youth development including your own children. Youth always welcome new innovation but not for cigarettes that kill its consumers.

On behalf of the youth network, we would like to request you to withdraw the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health Thailand on the case of 85% pictorial health warning on cigarette packages regulation, and request you to comply with the Tobacco Control Law of Thailand.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr.Chatchawan Monthatipkul

On behalf of the organizations as below:

Pak Dee Gang youth network,

Youth Network of Bangkok,

Youth Council of Satorn, Bangrak, Rajathevi, Watana, South Bangkok

Pharmacy Students ‘Union of Thailand,

Ya Mo Student in Public Health

Public Health and Health Sciences Students Association of Thailand,

Public health student, Network of Health Education and Behavioral Sciences Faculty Public Health Mahidol University,

Young Filmmakers of Thailand, Fongnom FILMS,

Network of Non Smoking generation /Teachers Networking for Smoke-Free Schools

Cameroon: Cigarettes are eating your baby alive campaign

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Today marks the launch of the first-ever national mass media campaign to warn people of Cameroon about the harms of tobacco. The campaign, called ‘Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,’ was developed by the Ministry of Health and World Lung Foundation. It graphically depicts how tobacco harms not both smokers, as well as their children and loved ones exposed to tobacco smoke. It will air on TV, radio, outdoor venues and SMS for eight weeks. The campaign is designed to empower citizens with new knowledge and spur advocacy and government to protect citizens from tobacco.

The campaign concept was rated as effective by African audiences in rigorous testing of tobacco control messaging conducted by World Lung Foundation in 2012. It was originally developed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and has been used effectively in Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Russia, and Vietnam, among other countries.

This mass media campaign was carried out with the technical and financial support of the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the Framework Convention Alliance. Additional funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

To view the public service announcement (French and English), click here.

Cameroon - cigarettes are eating you and your baby

World No Tobacco Day: a wrap up of reports and pictures from around the world

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is held every year on 31 May. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners everywhere highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. In 2013, the theme was ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

A comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is required under the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) for all Parties. Evidence shows that comprehensive advertising bans lead to reductions in the numbers of people starting and continuing smoking.  Statistics show that banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce tobacco demand and thus a tobacco control “best buy”.Despite the effectiveness of comprehensive bans, only 6% of the world’s population was fully protected from exposure to the tobacco industry advertising, promotion and sponsorship tactics in 2010.

To help reduce tobacco use, comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans work to counteract:

  • the deceptive and misleading nature of tobacco marketing campaigns;
  • the unavoidable exposure of youth to tobacco marketing;
  • the failure of the tobacco industry to effectively self-regulate; and
  • the ineffectiveness of partial bans.

Attempts by the tobacco industry to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are becoming ever more aggressive. For example, where jurisdictions have banned advertising of tobacco products through point-of-sale displays – known as tobacco “powerwalls” – or banned the advertising and promotional features of tobacco packaging through standardised packaging, the tobacco industry has sued governments in national courts and through international trade mechanisms. The tobacco industry also uses sponsorship and especially corporate social responsibility tactics to trick public opinion into believing in their respectability and good intentions while they manoeuver to hijack the political and legislative process. Click here to read more about WHO WNTD 2013 and see campaign materials.

World No Tobacco Day Awards

Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organisations for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This year, Mr Paul Kasereka Lughembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Honourable Dr Pradit Sintavanarong, Minister of Public Health, the Kingdom of Thailand were recognised for the WHO Director-General Special awards. His Excellency the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Republic of Turkey received the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition certificate. Click here to read a full list of awards given in all six WHO regions.

Other events by country/region:

Bolivia: the Health and Sport Ministry, in coordination with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO, the  Municipal Government of La Paz, the Bolivian Police and Armed Forces organised a  festival to inform people of the negative effects that nicotine produces on the  body. WNTD was also an opportunity highlight the findings from a study which showed increased smoking among young women, and a lower age of initiation. Read more here.

Congo: The tobacco control group ROCAT in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population and WHO Country celebrated World No Tobacco Day 2013 with a series of events including a press Conference by the Minister of Health briefing, outreach campaigns, and TV and radio coverage. Read more here.

Gabon: WNTD in Gabon focused on a number of high level meetings held with key authorities including the President of the National Assembly and the Minister Delegate to Health. Held from 28-30 May, the meetings were a chance to discuss government policy making in relation to tobacco control. Read more here.

India: a range of events were held around the country, including a national stakeholder consultation on improving the implementation of TAPS bans, rallies, skits, art exhibitions and ‘walls of shame’ of TAPS violations. Read more here.

Jamaica: An outside broadcast addressing tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) was held, as well as a national forum. Read more here.

Pacific Islands: The Cook Islands received a WHO WNTD award for its progress in tobacco control since ratifying the FCTC in 2004. Several countries also participated in a project designed to encourage sharing of information by email.  Participating countries chose a letter from W, N, T or D to display as part of their activities with a flag in the photo.  The intention is to make a poster of tobacco control in the Pacific by “stitching” the photos together featuring the letters to spell out WNTD 2013. Read more here.

Pakistan: Activities included seminars, orientation sessions, rallies/walks, speech/poster/sports competitions, interactive theatre, signature campaigns, banner/poster displays, picketing & meetings. Participants included local government officials, law enforcement authorities, parliamentarians, health & education government departments, media, lawyers, civil society organizations, youth and community members. In Islamabad,  a 150 feet long banner carrying signatures from tobacco control activists from all over the country demanding strict tobacco control laws and their effective implementation was displayed. Read more here.

Poland: A seminar  to integrate efforts for effective enforcement of ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship took place on 29 May. It was accompanied by a photographic exhibition featuring examples of tobacco industry violation and circumvention of TAPS bans at sport events and other cultural, educational, social and political activities. Read more here.

Romania: World No Tobacco Day in Romania highlighted the European Commission’s Ex-smokers are unstoppable’ campaign. A media roundtable was held, where two doctors discussed the benefits of smoking cessation. Two ex-smokers also shared their personal stories of quitting smoking. Read more here.

Switzerland: NGO CIPRET ran an advertisement campaign in the canton of Geneva for WNTD with posters displayed in over 350 locations throughout the city and canton, and large ads in newspaper. As Switzerland has very weak legislation concerning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship the campaign was somewhat provocative – and provoked a strong reaction from the advertising industry. This post also contains an outline of events at WHO headquarters. Read more here.

The Philippines: The Philippines took a creative and confronting approach to WNTD. In the capital Manila, commuters were stunned to find grisly crime scenes in various locations in the metro. The cause of death: tobacco. The tobacco ‘crime scenes’ were actually art installations vividly illustrating what tobacco companies don’t want people to see: smoking kills. Read more here.

USA: Is this the world that tobacco ads hope to build? This the question asked by a video produced by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Click here.

Vietnam: social media, a bike rally and public transport get the message out. The national week of Tobacco Control in Vietnam kicked off with a ceremony held on 25 May, which attracted 450 participants from the National Assembly, Government Offices, related Ministries, WHO Vietnam, Tobacco Control Working Groups, mass media and students. Colourful local events were also held in Hue and Nha Trang cities. Read more here.

 

World No Tobacco Day: a report from Switzerland

24 Jun, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of World No Tobacco Day (WTND) reports from around the world.

In this post, we hear from Dr Pascal Diethelm of the Swiss organisation OxyRomandie. Dr Diethelm attended the World No Tobacco day event at World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters. The keynote speaker was Ms. Jane Halton, Secretary of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, who was elected chair of the WHO Executive Board on 29 May.

Dr Diethelm gave a presentation on his association’s successful fight against the sponsorship of the last major tennis tournament by a tobacco brand, the Davidoff Swiss Indoors. He was then presented the WNTD Award. The event was attended by representatives of a dozen Member States. The Australian delegate took the floor and announced that Australia was providing extra-budgetary contribution to the FCTC amounting to approximately 1 million dollars.

Dr Diethelm also tells of the actions by CIPRET, a Geneva tobacco control NGO of which he is a board member:

CIPRET ran an advertisement campaign in the canton of Geneva for WNTD with posters displayed in over 350 locations throughout the city and canton, and large ads in newspaper. As Switzerland has very weak legislation concerning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (some newspapers being saturated with tobacco ads, especially those whose readership has a large proportion of teenagers), the campaign was somewhat provocative. See the three posters which were used here. (Advertising kills/Advertising makes you impotent/Advertising causes cancer)

This campaign has triggered interesting reactions.

Firstly, the most widely read newspaper of Switzerland, 20Minutes – which is a free newspaper – refused to accept the ad when they saw it. The contract had been signed and the place had been reserved in the 31 May edition of the newspaper, but when they received the PDf file, they unilaterally cancelled and refused to publish it. 20Minutes is a newspaper in which tobacco companies advertise their products massively, especially in the ‘People’ pages, whose readership is predominantly teenagers and young people.

Secondly, the Swiss Advertisers’ Association (Publicité Suisse) filed a complaint against the campaign before the Swiss Commission for Loyalty in Commercial Advertising, which is a self-regulatory body of the Swiss advertising industry (where the jury is composed in its majority of representatives of the advertising industry, ie of members of Publicité Suisse – which means they will be judge and party). The advertisers’ association claims that they are defending freedom of expression. They have sent letters to the Geneva municipal authorities asking that the outdoor posters be immediately covered to hide the “offending” message (see letter here in French).  Publicité Suisse claim the message is insulting, deceptive and defamatory, arguing that the only effect of tobacco advertising is to incite smokers to switch brands (a familiar argument to tobacco control advocates).

The Tribune de Genève published two articles about this story (here and here). The second has prompted me to make a comment (first comment listed) saying in substance that to the well known slogans of Orwell’s Newspeak, “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, “Ignorance is Strength”, Publicité Suisse have added a new entry: “Freedom of Expression is Censorship”.

 

 

 

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