September 18, 2014– Tobacco companies manufacture and sell a product that, if used as intended, kills over half of their regular customers— a staggering six million worldwide each year.
While the government works on implementing public health policies to address this problem, it has made little strides to curb the tobacco epidemic. This is because tobacco companies are bent on subverting the development and implementation of laws aimed to regulate these deadly products. They employ various tactics to circumvent the law and export their deadly business across the world hiding the truth that tobacco use causes death, disease, and disability.
Exposing tobacco tactics
To protect its commercial interest of getting as many consumers and sell as much tobacco as possible, tobacco companies use strategies to challenge, discredit, and obstruct implementation of effective tobacco control measures. Evidence-based research shows that these include: demanding a seat at government negotiating tables, drafting and distributing sample legislation that is favorable to the tobacco industry, attempting to bribe legislators, gaining favor by financing government initiatives on other health issues, using tobacco farmers as ‘front groups’, and defending commercial profit at the expense of health, among others.
“There is an urgent need to expose the tobacco industry as the world’s deadliest industry. The tobacco industry has never been short of ideas to promote its deadly products as it continues to undermine tobacco control activities and fight government regulation,” explains Irene Reyes, HealthJustice Managing Director.
Public health treaty
To address the problem on a global scale, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) was established to curb the global tobacco epidemic and reaffirm the public’s right to the highest standard of health. The FCTC is one of the most widely received treaties in the world, having been signed by 179 Parties, including the Philippines.
Parties to the treaty agree that they consider tobacco industry interference to be one of the biggest barriers they face in the successful implementation of the treaty’s guidelines.
In a recent research conducted by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), the Philippines ranked 3rd among seven other Southeast Asian countries in a Tobacco Industry Interference Index report, indicative that tobacco companies in the Philippines continue to interfere and influence health policies that regulate the tobacco industry; a sad reality for a developing country with a high incidence of tobacco-related deaths.
Health advocates and tobacco control supporters continue to work with various groups and government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) to undertake stricter measures to address the health impacts of tobacco and effectively counter attempts by tobacco companies to meddle against national policies.
Challenging the deadliest industry
The Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or COP6 will be held in Moscow this October 13 – 18, 2014. In this global conference, Parties to the WHO FCTC will convene to discuss issues and challenges and work on a strategy to safeguard public health and advance life-saving tobacco control measures.
“As Parties prepare for this global initiative for tobacco control, tobacco companies are expected to hinder these efforts. But health advocates will remain vigilant against possible attempts by the tobacco industry and its allies,” adds Atty. Reyes.
HealthJustice is calling on the country’s policymakers to ensure that the protection of the health and welfare of Filipinos, not the business and commercial interests of the tobacco companies, remains at the forefront and the paramount consideration as they discuss life-saving measures at the global conference.
“Being a Party to the FCTC treaty is a big commitment towards our country’s and the world’s fight to uphold the highest attainable standard of health for all. While tobacco companies continue with aggressive attempts to block and delay laws aimed to regulate them, we aim to educate the public and persuade lawmakers to safeguard the lives of people against unnecessary deaths,” shares Atty. Reyes.