Japan Society for Tobacco Control warns against appointing ex tobacco executive to national broadcaster

Manabu Sakuta

President of the Japan Society for Tobacco Control

According to an article published on 13 May in Nihon Keizai Shinbun (Japan’s equivalent of the Wall Street Journal ) the former president of Japan Tobacco Company Mr Katsuhiko Honda is being considered for appointment as the next Chief Executive Officer of Japan Broadcasting Company (popularly known as NHK). Mr Honda continues to be affiliated with JT as a consultant advisor.

The Japan Society for Tobacco Control unequivocally protests the possible appointment.

Japanese Broadcasting Law has a mandate to “broadcast in accordance with public welfare”. This includes the urgent public health priority of reducing consumption of tobacco to protect the health and life of Japanese people, in line with Health Japan 21, and the Basic Policy against Cancer. Appointing the former president of Japan Tobacco creates an environment for broadcasting which is favourably biased to maintain cigarette consumption, particularly given Mr Honda’s ongoing association with the company. Tobacco kills more than 120 thousand people in Japan every year; an unacceptably high toll.

The Japanese Government ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, and has an obligation to observe the treaty under Japanese Constitution article 98.2. Article 5.3 of the FCTC states: “Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law “. The government should avoid the influence of tobacco industry to pursue its policy.

Appointment by the Japanese parliament of a former president and now consultant of JT as the CEO of NHK would be a fundamental breach of Japan’s obligations under the FCTC.

We stand together with our colleagues from around the world who have also expressed concern about the possible appointment. NHK is broadcast in more than ten languages globally; its reach and influence is international.

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