Tobacco Industry Influence Alive and Well: NGOs Criticize US Position on Global Tobacco Treaty
GENEVA, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- At a World Health Organization meeting this week to discuss a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, NGOs from around the world sharply criticized the US and other governments advocating for a weak treaty. INFACT, a US-b
The US delegation helped set the tone early in the week by calling for a general Framework Convention that excludes the most ``controversial'' elements. According to the Network for the Accountability of the Tobacco Transnationals, the US position would omit the most effective tools to prevent the spread of tobacco addiction around the world.
The death toll from tobacco-related diseases is projected to reach 10 million per year by 2030, with the majority of those deaths occurring in developing countries. Several developing countries, which have become target markets for tobacco transnationals and therefore have the most at stake in the treaty process, posed some of the strongest challenges to the tobacco corporations.
``The tobacco corporations, finding no peaceful atmosphere in their home countries of the North, are moving shops. They want us to pay for their total disregard of human rights,'' said Oronto Douglas, an environmental rights lawyer and Deputy Director of Environmental Rights Action of Nigeria. Mr. Douglas gained international prominence as part of the legal defense team for the late Ken Saro-Wiwa who challenged Shell and other oil transnationals.
There was resounding support, particularly from developing countries, for including tobacco advertising and promotion restrictions in the treaty. Mary Assunta of the Consumers Association of Penang pointed out that, ``What tobacco corporations cannot do at home, they should not be allowed to do in a foreign country.'' Ms. Assunta, speaking on behalf of Consumers International, called for consumer protections in the treaty.
Several countries voiced frustration at being unable to pass national tobacco control legislation due to interference from the tobacco transnationals, including US-based Philip Morris. The recent decision by the US Supreme Court that the Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to regulate tobacco was a clear demonstration of the undue political influence that Philip Morris wields in its home country.
INFACT, together with NATT member World Vision International, called on delegates to support the development of national public health legislation by preventing tobacco industry interference in public policy debates. ``Philip Morris and the tobacco transnationals demonstrate a lack of respect for the sovereign right of countries to develop legislation to protect people's lives,'' said Lucinda Wykle-Rosenberg, INFACT's Research Director. ``The Framework Convention should require the tobacco corporations to disclose their lobbying activities and political contributions, and it should set strict limits on tobacco industry influence.''
``The American Lung Association continues to be disappointed by the US position of advocating for a general, meaningless, do nothing proposal. ALA calls on the US to stop stonewalling and demonstrate their commitment to global tobacco control by supporting a strong and enforceable Framework Convention,'' said Cassandra Welch of American Lung Association.
Dr. Arturo Lomeli of AMEDEC, a consumers' organization in Mexico, said, ``We should acknowledge that the marketing problems related to health are not a new issue for the WHO. It's necessary to adopt strict regulations with respect to marketing and promotion of tobacco products. It will protect children from the tobacco industry. It is important to give consumers truthful, complete and visible information about the dangers of tobacco products, including its addictive properties. In either case it should be necessary to establish a specific protocol about consumer protection.''
Coinciding with the Working Group meetings this week, INFACT launched a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control page on is website, at www.infact.org/fctc.html . In addition to providing updated first-hand reports on the proceedings in Geneva this week, the page outlines NATT's mission and full membership. The site includes background information on the treaty, as well as resources on how to keep a critical eye on the tobacco industry's posture toward and attempts to infiltrate the process.
Founded in 1977, INFACT's purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses by transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. INFACT is known for the successful Nestle and GE Boycotts. INFACT launched the Tobacco Industry Campaign in 1993, with a boycott targeting Philip Morris' Kraft Foods in 1994. For more information about INFACT, visit www.infact.org .