ASEAN civil societies, tobacco control advocates work together to establish stronger partnership against the tobacco industry

The war on tobacco is far from won in the ASEAN region as the industry continues to interfere with public health policy. 

To help address this, civil society organisations and tobacco control advocates from different ASEAN countries gather together in Bangkok from 14 to 15 December for the “Regional Workshop on Good Governance in Tobacco Control: Implementing WHO FCTC Article 5.3 in ASEAN Region” organized by the Southeast Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). 

The workshop aims to assess implementation of FCTC Article 5.3 in the ASEAN Region, identify national and international interference and challenges posed by tobacco industry, discuss COP6 decision on Article 5.3, and develop regional and country action plan toward good governance.

“As we all know, the tobacco industry continues to interfere, deter and thwart government efforts to protect public health through both overt and covert means. It lobbies and dissuades governments from developing and implementing stringent tobacco control policies. Hence the Conference of Parties to FCTC have adopted Art 5.3 Guidelines aiming to protect public policy from tobacco industry interference,” said Dr. Prakit Vathesatogkit, SEATCA’s Vice-chairman. 

“SEATCA has actively promoted the implementation of WHO FCTC in particular Art 5.3 and its Guidelines. After the adoption of Art 5.3 guidelines at COP 3 in South Africa in late 2008, SEATCA organized the first regional workshop on Art 5.3 for the ASEAN countries in February 2009,” added Dr. Vathesatogkit.

To create stronger tobacco control policies, SEATCA together with WHO has been working hand in hand with different country partners in the ASEAN. 

“Despite these efforts, the tobacco industry does not rest. The tobacco industry is not transparent and continues to partner with and provide policy drafts to government, continues to create conflicts of interest for government officials, and does so-called CSR activities to divert attention from harmful effects of tobacco,” said Dr. Mary Assunta, SEATCA’s Senior Policy Advisor. 

With these activities from the tobacco industry, it is high time for the governments, both in national and local levels to reaffirm its commitment to prioritize public health by doing the following: 1. Raise awareness about the harmful nature of tobacco products and about the tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policies; 2. Establish measures to limit interaction; 3. Reject partnerships and agreements; 4. Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees; 5. Denormalize and regulate tobacco industry activities defined as “socially acceptable.

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