1 November 2016
The seventh session of the FCTC Conference of Parties (COP7) will be held in New Delhi, India, between 7 – 12 November. As the COP7 draws near, the tobacco industry and its allies have been applying tremendous pressure on both the COP and the Indian government, according to a recent Reuters’ expose.
Petitions, protests and court cases are common tactics the tobacco industry uses in influencing and intimidating governments. Reuters reports that in India, a tobacco farmers’ group took the government to court to compel them to allow farmers to attend the COP. The Health Ministry had received a petition signed by more than 100,000 farmers seeking protection from being regulated under the FCTC. Farmers had also staged a protest outside the offices of the Health Ministry and the WHO in New Delhi.
At the global level, the tobacco industry has been drumming up a misinformation campaign. Although it is an obligation for Parties to implement the FCTC, according to the Reuters reports, the Tobacco Institute of India had written to the Indian government in September saying, “there is no obligation on any signatory to the FCTC to comply with or implement any provision of the FCTC”. This is a gross misinterpretation of the obligations under the FCTC.
On 28 October, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) issued a statement claiming the Convention refuses to acknowledge that most FCTC measures will “irreparably damage the livelihoods of millions of tobacco-growers and their families – often in the world’s poorest countries”. In reality, it is the tobacco industry that traps tobacco growers in a cycle of poverty and in poor health by paying them pittance for their leaves and in an activity that uses dangerous chemical pesticides.
Meanwhile, ITGA’s sponsors – Big Tobacco – are minting obscene amounts of profits from selling an addictive product. PMI’s subsidiary in Indonesia, PT Sampoerna reported 20% increase in net profitsto Rp 9.1 trillion (US$699 million) for the period January to September this year. In 2015, Sampoerna sold 314 billion individual cigarettes in Indonesia. BAT profits for the first nine months of this year increased by 2.2 percent, selling 487 billion sticks.
As Parties to the FCTC start their debate at COP7 in India next week, we hope they will not be intimidated by the tobacco industry and make decisions on measures that will be effective in reducing tobacco use, stop the tobacco industry from interfering, and help farmers move to safer, alternate livelihoods.
The Convention Secretariat issued a strongly statement Transparency, Yes. Interference, No. saying “We will also guard against tobacco industry interference, this most untrustworthy of businesses. It would be a dereliction of our duty to do otherwise.”
The Convention Secretariat has sent a Note Verbale to all Parties on attendance at COP7. The Secretariat has notified the Parties, under the guidance of the Bureau, not to send representatives from the tobacco industry, their front groups or groups who represent the interests of the tobacco industry.