Pasig City, Philippines, 3 February 2014: Tobacco companies continue to enjoy undue, and unregulated, influence over policies affecting their industry, and therefore affecting public health, in Southeast Asia, according to the first-ever Tobacco Control Interference Index for ASEAN launched by regional advocates for tobacco control.
Non-disclosure of government interactions with the tobacco industry, transparency, and conflict of interest are all issues to be dealt with: these are the main findings of the world’s first Tobacco Industry Interference Index released by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
The Index covers seven countries in Southeast Asia: the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, in relation to their compliance with Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that requires member states to protect public health policies from the influence of the tobacco industry.
The Index ranks ASEAN countries according to their efforts in halting tobacco industry interference and provides clues to what the challenges are. Brunei and Thailand scored well in their efforts to implement Article 5.3, while Indonesia (a non-party), Malaysia and Philippines have plenty of room for improvement. The main findings reveal:
- Countries with high levels of unnecessary interaction with the industry have high levels of tobacco industry participation in policy development.
- There is no system that prohibits the industry from making political party contributions, and governments do not require full disclosure of such.
- Most governments receive tobacco industry contributions (monetary or in kind) or endorse industry CSR activities.
- Most governments accept assistance from the industry in implementing tobacco control policies.
“The tobacco industry will not stop its disruption of government efforts to promote public health through tobacco control,” said Mary Assunta the Senior Policy Advisor of SEATCA. “This Index shines a light on where the interferences are. We are alerting countries that they need to step up their efforts, disclose all interactions with the industry, exercise transparency, stop receiving industry contributions, and ban their CSR activities.”
ASEAN is home to about 127 million smokers or 10 percent of the world’s tobacco consumers. There are about 400,000 tobacco-related deaths per year in the region – these are all preventable deaths. The region is a fertile ground for the tobacco industry as three of the top five cigarette manufactaurers in the world dominate markets in most ASEAN countries.
SEATCA hopes the Index report will motivate countries to assess where they are and plug their vulnerable areas. (ENDS)
Speakers during the launch were:
(L-R): Asst. Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo, Assistant Commissioner, Civil Service Commission, Mr. Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador, President of New Vois Association of the Philippines Inc., Dr Carmen Audera-Lopez, TFI-Technical Officer, WHO-WPRO, and Dr Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor, SEATCA
Members of the local and foreign press