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#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 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 (…/Tabakindustriedokumente_I.pdf)


World No Tobacco Day India: rallies, art, skits, walls of shame and policy progress

4 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor



National: Government and NGOs join hands to completely ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS)

Credit: Nikunj Sharma, HRIDAY

A national level multi-stakeholder consultation was held in New Delhi, at which the government and NGOs resolved in favour of a complete ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) of tobacco products. The health secretary of the ministry of health and family welfare, Shri Keshav Desiraju while inaugurating the wall of shame said: “We will issue guidelines to the departments concerned to ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent violation of TAPS”.

The intent of the consultation was to deliberate on development of national guidelines/recommendations for a ban on TAPS and effective enforcement of Section 5 of COTPA – the Indian tobacco control law, which prohibits any form of direct or indirect TAPS. State Focal Points (Tobacco Control), State Consultants (NTCP), State WHO Consultants and civil society organizations working on tobacco control, from nearly 15 sates of the country attended the consultation.

Major highlights of the consultation included:

  • Unveiling of A ‘Wall of Shame’ – a photo exhibition of TAPS violations
  • Release of an advocacy film      covering various kinds of TAPS violations
  • Release of an advocacy toolkit

The consultation was organized by HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth) and Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) in collaboration with The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), GoI and World Health Organization Country Office for India.

Tamil Nadu: Illustrations to counter challenges against Tobacco

Credit: S Cyril Alexander, Mary Anne Charity Trust

Mary Anne Charity Trust (MACT) is an NGO in Tamil Nadu state which works actively in the advocacy of change in policies related to tobacco. MACT along with Tamil Nadu State Tobacco Control Cell, Cancer Society India and other NGOS organised “Tamil Nadu- Illustrators for Tobacco Control,” on May 31 to commemorate World No Tobacco Day.

The Mayor of Chennai Corporation, Honourable Saidai Samiyappan Duraisamy inaugurated the event and gave the key note address. The mayor appreciated the goal of the event to take the art works to the government schools and educate the children about the danger of consuming tobacco.

20 illustrators joined to create art works on various tobacco related concepts. They used their creative skills to create awareness on the negative effects of tobacco products. They addressed key issues like negative effects of smoking, health problems caused due to tobacco products, and economic loss of the smokers’ family.

The public got an opportunity to see the illustrators in action. They gathered around the illustrators with curiosity and were much thrilled about the work that was carried out. The event met with its objective when the public enthusiastically discussed about tobacco and its ill effects.

The illustrations that were created will serve as knowledge building tool in exhibitions conducted in schools across the state in an effort to educate the kids on the ill effects of tobacco.

MACT photo 1 MACT photo 2

















Lucknow, Mumbai and Kanpur activities organised by the Cancer Aid Society

Credit: Preeti Gupta and Neha Tripathi, Cancer Aid Society India

WNTD was busy in Lucknow. Activities included a rally, a cancer screening camp, and a ‘wall of shame’ of violations of India’s TAPS ban.  This was followed by a pledge for non-smoking and quiz competition. Similar activities, also organised by the Cancer Aid Society, were held in Mumbai and Kanpur.

















New Delhi: poster and skit competitions

Credit: Rita Thokchom, Indian Cancer Society

The Indian Cancer Society, Delhi, organised a poster and skit competition, held in the lead up to WNTD. Some of the photos of the winners are below:

Indian Cancer Society pic 2Indian Cancer society photo 1

World No Tobacco Day Vietnam: social media, a bike rally and public transport get the message out

29 Jun, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor


Contributors and photos: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance; Stephen Hamill, World Lung Foundation; Tran Vu, Vietnam Public Health Association; Nguyen Xuan Lam, Vietnam Public Health Association.

The national week of Tobacco Control in Vietnam kicked off with a ceremony held on 25 May. Organized by the Vietnam Committee on Smoking or Health (VINACOSH), it attracted 450 participants from the National Assembly, Government Offices, related Ministries, WHO Vietnam, Tobacco Control Working Groups, mass media and students.

Dr Sarah England from Bloomberg Philanthropies expressed congratulations for the approval of Vietnam’s new tobacco control law and conveyed an official letter of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York city to the Vietnam Prime Minister for the great achievements of Vietnam in curbing the tobacco epidemic. The Vice Minister of Health, Vietnam conveyed his appreciation and acknowledged the considerable support of all ministries, sectors and mass organizations, international donors (Bloomberg Philanthropies, SEATCA) for the cause of tobacco control in Vietnam. Click here to read more and see photos from the event at the SEATCA webpage.

Hà N?i: L? mít tinh hu?ng ?ng Ngày Th? gi?i Không thu?c lá (31/5







Social media for public engagement

VINACOSH, together with a coalition of Vietnamese health groups and international NGOs including the World Lung Foundation, collaborated in an innovative effort to use online media to engage the public around implementation of a new smoke-free law.

The effort combined broadcast television spots with an online petition at (‘smoke free Vietnam’) and Facebook page to grow awareness of which types of public spaces were covered by the new law, and to allow people to pledge to support the law and share the campaign with their friends through social media. The effort also included a mobile short code that allowed supporters to SMS in their support. Vietnam has 143 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants, so learning how to best use mobiles to support tobacco control advocacy is very important for the success of future campaigns.

Mobile and social media efforts were particularly energised by a partnership with the Youth Union of Vietnam , a steadfast supporter of tobacco control policies in Vietnam, who sent out the word and provided ‘on the ground support’ in the form of hundreds of youth demonstrating at press conferences, attending campaign events, using social media and SMS to build supporters for the online campaign, and going business-to-business to provide smokefree signs and alert owners of their new obligations under the law. Already, almost 3000 supporters have joined the community online, and the 500 person Facebook community is growing fast, with a vibrant community – mostly high school youth – who are sharing photos and ideas about tobacco control on the page.

Hue City (Central Vietnam)

The Hue Municipal People’s Committee in collaboration with the Vietnam Public Health Association hosted WNTD and national No Tobacco Week. The launch event was held with about 300 participants from the health sector, youth union, women’s union, labour union and delegates from provincial people’s committee, city leaders, representatives from government departments and other organisations. ‘Smoke-free city’ signage on all the municipal public transportation was also organized, with 1600 public transportation vehicles including taxis, buses, passenger cars, pedicabs and tourist boats to be badged with the “smoke-free city” sign in coming weeks.

A workshop on ‘Evaluating the implementation of smoke-free program in Hue city’ was also held on May 27th. This was followed by outreach to public facilities to raise public awareness about the availability and implementation of smoke free policies in Vietnam.

Nha Trang City (Central Vietnam)

A bike parade was held on June 9th 2013 with the theme ‘Environment protection and smoke-free Nha Trang city’. Supported by Nha Trang Municipal People’s Committee in collaboration with Vietnam Public Health Association and Khanh Hoa Provincial Public Health Association, the event attracted 2000 participants including many young people, as well as Mr Takeshi Kasai, Representative of WHO in Vietnam.

There were several other events including 500 balloons dropping with the message ‘environment protection and Smoke-free Nha Trang city’; a no smoking flash mob; dancing and some entertainment shows.

Vietnam pic 2 Vietnam picture 1

Phillip Morris, a drinking competition and a death

27 Aug, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

On April 7 this year, a 29 year old man died unnecessarily. Not due to smoking cigarettes, but from consuming alcohol shots at an illegal event sponsored by Phillip Morris Fortune Tobacco Company in The Philippines. His sister Catherine Maralit has started an online petition to bring those responsible to account.

She writes:

Last April 7, my brother died at an event illegally sponsored by Phillip Morris Tobacco Corporation. He was 29 years old.

The game Phillip Morris played with my brother’s life was this: they encouraged people to drink as many liquor shots as possible in 100 seconds. There was no medic on standby.

A police investigation into my brother’s death says that it “was caused by lapses and negligence in the party of the organisers as evident in the aftermath of the event”. Yet the people responsible for his death are still employed, no criminal charges have been laid, and Philip Morris continue to engage in illegal promotional activities.

I miss my brother every day. His widow will give birth to their first baby in a few months time, and I can’t believe that he won’t be there with us to celebrate.”

Read more here. To sign Catherine’s petition click here.

Tobacco Control publishing workshop in South Africa

16 Feb, 11 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

By Ruth Malone, Editor

When the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was being negotiated several years back, I was among many others around the world who were impressed with the unanimity and power exerted by the African countries’ delegates. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is in many respects because of strong advocacy from African countries that we have as strong a global treaty to work with. For that reason, I was excited to meet with African tobacco control advocates, researchers and policymakers from 14 African countries whom I met in Johannesburg, South Africa recently for a Tobacco Control journal-sponsored publishing workshop (see photo). These are individuals who are doing incredible work, often with very limited resources and often at some personal risk due to government corruption and/or industry influence. Editorial board member Stella Aguinaga Bialous and I travelled to Johannesburg to hear about the work underway across the continent. We brainstormed with the group about their ideas for articles and discussed the requirements for submitting papers, the mentorship program for promising papers offered by the journal under Bloomberg sponsorship, and the global interest in the activities taking place on the African continent. We are looking forward to publishing more great research and advocacy work from African countries!

Workshop participants

Bringing lessons from Indonesia to the world

15 Jul, 10 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

Ruth Malone, Editor in Chief

Indonesia is one of the world’s most difficult places to do tobacco control, with a strong tobacco industry presence and a lot of political resistance from tobacco growers and their allies. Huge tobacco billboards are everywhere in the city of Jakarta. Yet, as we discovered on a recent visit, tobacco control advocates and researchers there are doing great work of global importance.

Commissioning editor for Low and Middle Income Countries Simon Chapman and I conducted a workshop in Jakarta aimed at encouraging more publications from low and middle income countries and enthusiasm ran high. Hosted by the Faculty of Public Health at University of Jakarta and coordinated by Mary Assunta, Director, International Tobacco Control Project, Cancer Council Australia, the workshop focused on bringing great ideas to fruition as journal articles, so that lessons learned in Indonesia can help other countries faced with similar political challenges.

The Indonesian workshop participants.

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