Diluting Government’s Efforts

To weaken strong tobacco control laws, the industry is known to draft and distribute tobacco-friendly sample legislation to the government as a ready-to-adopt alternative.

BAT Cambodia gave its own draft law on tobacco control to the Council of Ministers in 2007 to thwart any possibility of the government’s introduction of tobacco regulation that would be unfavourable to the industry.

In other instances, the industry is known to have submitted position papers, letters, and comments to policy makers that directly oppose proposed measures or offer diluted tobacco-friendly alternatives to them. In Malaysia when Ministry of Health officials were preparing for the introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packs in compliance with Article 11 of the FCTC, PMI, BAT and JTI submitted their proposals on what the health warnings should be.

In Malaysia, the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) wrote to the Health Ministry in an attempt to defer the ban on kiddie pack in 2005 and graphic health warning on cigarette packs. The industry was successful, and the Health Ministry explained that the postponement of the ban by another five years was to coincide with the advent of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in the country and also to allow tobacco farmers a grace period to switch to alternative crops (which started more than 15 years earlier) under the National Agricultural Policy.

PMI interfered in government administration in Thailand when they organised the Fiscal Policy Office Forum in 2006. That same year in the Philippines, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), of which PMI is a member, requested for a 4-month delay in compliance with the law mandating a change in pack warning placement in July that year.6

In 2008, JTI and PTI (representing PMPMI, and local companies: Fortune, Mighty, and La Suerte) presented position papers and made presentations in public hearings at the lower and upper houses of Philippine Congress in order to oppose the graphic health warning bills. Japan Tobacco International (JTI), through its counsel, even submitted proposed specific amendments to the graphic health warning bill filed.

A Philippine Congressman representing a tobacco growing district, in response to the tobacco industry’s request, sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) to interpret the Outdoor Ad Ban provision to broaden exemptions for the tobacco industry. This letter was used to seek an intervention from the DILG to order local government officials to refrain from indiscriminately implementing the advertising ban. The confusing message of the DILG resulted in local governments being hesitant in implementing the outdoor tobacco advertising ban.

Another way to delay the implementation of a policy is by using trade or economic issues as reasons. In Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, the industry was known to delay health-related policies by raising these issues and surprisingly these governments allowed trade and economic issues to supersede the importance of health concerns. In Malaysia the ban of kiddie packs was deferred with the explanation that the ban would affect the livelihood of tobacco farmers. The industry would also try to defend its rights to use the terms ‘light’ and ‘mild’, saying that these are not descriptors of the products. In the Philippines the tobacco industry’s doom’s day tactics to oppose the introduction of graphic health warning (GHW) measures included an unfounded prediction of potential economic collapse and devastation of the tobacco farmers.7

Besides maintaining close contact with policy makers to soften their anti-tobacco stance, the industry also involves third parties to exert pressure and champion its cause. It is to reinforce an impression on the lawmakers that indeed farmers, retailers, restaurateurs and others named by the industry are going to be badly affected.

In Cambodia, tobacco farmers were used by BAT to praise the company in 2008 on a television documentary of how tobacco cultivation improved their standard of living. Restaurateurs through their association in Malaysia were used to convince the government that if smoking was bannedin restaurants they would experience a drastic drop in business.

In 2008, Congressmen of the major tobacco producing provinces used tobacco farming concerns to oppose a graphic health warning bill during legislative committee hearings and meetings in the Philippines.

The industry has also been very active in Vietnam lobbying policy makers in different ways to delay and weaken tobacco control regulations.