Group bares tobacco firms’ efforts to stop anti-smoking policies, 17/07/11

A PUBLIC health advocacy group assailed the tobacco manufacturing industry on Sunday over its ongoing efforts to foil the escalated fight by state agencies and local government units (LGUs). In a statement, the Health Justice said there have already been several efforts of the industry to interfere in the ongoing campaign of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to outlaw smoking in public areas in the National Capital Region (NCR). 

“We need to be alert and firm in protecting our tobacco control policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry,” said Health Justice’s laywer Evita Ricafort.

Detailing the industry’s efforts, the group claimed that a representative of the tobacco industry visited the offices of MMDA in search of documents on the marketing strategies of the smoke-free campaign. It said this is aside from the statements issued by the industry to take legal actions against MMDA’s initiative to ban cigarette smoking in public places. On the other hand, Ricafort related that LGUs are similarly feeling the pressure from the industry, especially Quezon City, Marikina, and Las Piñas.

She said this is based on LGU officials claiming an increased number of visits from representatives of tobacco firms since the beginning of MMDA’s smoke-free campaign. “According to the health officials, they are being offered assistance in their health projects and being intimidated on the pending cases of business establishments not complying with the policies on tobacco advertisements and promotions,” Ricafort said. Such actions, the group said, is against the Joint Memorandum Circular between Civil Service Commission and the Department of Health issued last year.

The said circular said government officials should not accept any offer for assistance from the tobacco industry while also prohibiting unnecessary interactions with their representatives. To recall, it was only last July 1 when the MMDA began its no smoking policy in Metro Manila by apprehending those who will be caught smoking in public places. With these “threats” to the campaign, the government has received backing from different personalities and groups known to share anti-smoking advocacies. “For members of tobacco industry to say that they support smoke-free policies yet threaten to sue MMDA is self-contradictory and an insult to the authority.

There is clear intent to confuse and divide the public. These statements are anything but supportive of MMDA’s campaign for health,” former DOH secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral says. “We believe that a smoking ban is basic and necessary for general welfare. We congratulate and strongly support MMDA for this campaign. It is high time that the government implement measures that effectively protect Filipinos from this life-threatening addiction of the stubborn minority, which adversely affects the non-smoking majority,” said Philippine Medical Association President Dr. Oscar Tinio. (AMN/Sunnex)

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