Bangkok, 13 September 2018: The tobacco industry undermines public health and sustainable development. Governments in ASEAN must invest in and strengthen implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to reduce the devastating health, social, economic and environmental harms of tobacco, save more lives, and thereby achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“This 12th Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health (APACT12) is an opportunity to remind governments of their obligation to protect people and planet by implementing the FCTC,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). The theme of this year’s conference, with more than 900 participants gathered in Bali from all over Asia Pacific, is: ‘Tobacco Control for Sustainable Development: Ensuring a Healthy Generation’’.
Among ASEAN countries, male adult smoking prevalence is highest in Indonesia (66%) and lowest in Singapore (21.1%). This year, the region is projected to consume a total of 548 billion cigarettes, primarily in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam as transnational tobacco companies shift from developed countries to targeting markets in poorer, less developed countries, where tobacco control policy is not as stringent.
“Tobacco negatively affects many of the 17 SDGs, so tobacco control is essential for sustainable development. The inclusion of FCTC implementation as a key target for the health goal (SDG 3) recognizes the magnitude of the smoking epidemic. The SDGs cannot be achieved without a strong commitment to tobacco control,” said Dorotheo.
SEATCA’s first Asian Tobacco Industry (TI) Interference Index indicates that most countries are moving at a glacial pace in protecting public policy from TI influence and interference as recommended by WHO FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are one of the key strategies the TI uses to undermine bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorship. Since governments have committed to implementing the SDGs through long-term plans based on partnerships, the TI has re-aligned its CSR programs along the lines of SDGs. TI programs and documents are now peppered with the SDGs and the word “sustainability” to win political approval.
“We call on governments to reject the TI and proactively set up safeguards to prevent unnecessary interactions with the TI, limit interactions necessary for tobacco regulation, and implement transparency measures to protect public health policies from TI interference,” remarked Dorotheo.
The FCTC provides a clear roadmap to tackle the tobacco epidemic and reduce the tobacco burden to help countries speed up achievement of SDGs. Effective and inexpensive public health measures include substantial tobacco tax increases, adopting a code of conduct in dealing with the industry, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotions such as pack displays, 100% smoke-free policies, and plain packaging of tobacco. This is also a crucial time for governments to consider feasible and sustainable financing mechanisms, such as dedicated tobacco and alcohol tax revenues, as part of public financing towards achieving SDGs, especially health goals.
Tobacco use remains one of the world’s leading preventable causes of premature death. If countries do not step up efforts to implement the FCTC, tobacco use will continue to kill more than 500,000 in the ASEAN region and more than 7 million people worldwide annually.
Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
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- ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas
- SEATCA 2018 Asian Tobacco Industry Interference Index
- Exposé: Tobacco Industry Hijacks the SDGs
- Sustainable Financing for Tobacco Control and Health Promotion
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.