11 September 2016
Manila, 16 September 2016: Interference from the tobacco industry in policy development is still a problem in the ASEAN region. This was the main finding of SEATCA’s 2016 Tobacco Industry Interference Index launched in Manila today.
The Tobacco Industry (TI) Interference Index, the third in the series, shows countries that have unnecessary, closed-door interaction with the tobacco industry also face high levels of tobacco industry influence in policy development.
The survey found marginal improvement in some countries in their effort to implement measures to protect public health policy from commercial interference as stipulated in the global treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Brunei Darussalam has maintained its good record and emerged at the top showing the least level of TI interference in the survey conducted by SEATCA across nine ASEAN countries.
The Philippines shines as a leader in the region on dealing with TI interference. The Philippines Department of Health-Civil Service Commission Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 of 2010 has put a fire-wall between the civil service and the tobacco industry by limiting interactions with the industry only for the purpose of regulating, controlling or supervising it.
Both Cambodia and Malaysia show good progress in addressing industry interference especially in not compromising on tobacco control policy development and implementation.
Myanmar and Vietnam, new additions to the survey, however show high levels of TI interference.
Indonesia unfortunately continues to languish at the bottom of the Index as tobacco industry interference worsens. It has not acceded to the WHO FCTC and is lagging behind other countries in the ASEAN region on tobacco control measures.
The survey found many governments still accept or endorse offers of assistance from the tobacco industry in implementing tobacco control policies. This is particularly evident in accepting assistance and funding from the tobacco industry to tackle illicit trade of tobacco products. Such unhealthy collaboration with the tobacco industry connects it directly with government enforcement activities.
Protecting public policy from industry interference is part and parcel of good governance. A whole-of-government approach is needed to address interference as the industry knows which government department to target that can be sympathetic to its business.
To see improvement there must be transparency in dealing with the tobacco industry. Often there is no systematic record keeping of what the industry is actually saying to our governments, to whom, when, where and why.
Accepting tobacco industry related corporate social responsibility (CSR) grants remain a vulnerable Achilles heel for governments. Once a government endorses these industry related activities, it will have difficulty regulating the industry.
Governments need to ban CSR activities by the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry must be made to disclose its expenditure on marketing, philanthropy, lobbying, and political contributions.
SEATCA’s 2016 Tobacco Industry Interference Index:http://seatca.org/dmdocuments/TII%20Index%202016.pdf