Our Health Policies Cannot Be Decided By Tobacco Companies
On this World No Tobacco Day (WNDT 2012) it would be worthwhile to remember that ‘tobacco products are the only legally available products that can kill up to one half of their regular users if consumed as recommended by the manufacturer.’ The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the Union), recognizes that, “With its formidable economic and political resources, the tobacco industry is fighting to prevent passage of new tobacco control laws and policies around the world. Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls for parties to the treaty to resist these efforts to undermine public health and continue the spiralling pandemic of tobacco-related disease.”
There seems to be a fundamental conflict of interest between the goals of the tobacco industry and the goals of governments in promoting public health. The tobacco industry interference has, time and again, weakened and delayed the enforcement of public health policies around the world. It is because of this interference that in India strong pictorial warnings on tobacco packs have been diluted and/or their implementation postponed several times in the past. In November 2008, The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed before the Central Information Commission that tobacco industry is putting “pressure” to relax the tobacco control policies (source: The Hindu, 14 November 2008). In fact the tobacco industry, Indian Hotel Association and other allied agencies had filed more than 70 court cases against tobacco control policies in Indian courts in September 2008, and due to aggressive lobbying by such agencies, the Group of Ministers formed earlier to review the pictorial warnings on tobacco products, diluted the pictorial warnings provision and postponed the implementation of pictorial warnings on tobacco products at least six-times.
Dr Jagdeep Singh Rana of the Union informs that ‘Tobacco industry people have been approaching various sections of officials and activists in Chandigarh (the first Indian city to go smoke free in 2007) to find support for dilution/ defeating the initiative to license the tobacco vendors. Many attempts were made by the industry in this regard in the past.’