Lao: Tobacco Companies Disregard Tobacco Control Law

10 February 2018:

The deadline came and went three times but Imperial Brands, (majority share owner of Lao Tobacco Company) and Lao-China Hongta Good Luck Company Ltd., have been violating the law by not printing pictorial health warnings on their cigarette packs. These two companies control over 80 percent of the cigarette market in Lao PDR.

The companies had an ample 19 months in total to apply 75% pictorial health warnings on their packs but have not complied. In contrast, other countries in the ASEAN region gave tobacco companies only three to six months to comply with their PHWs regulations.

The latest deadline given by the Ministry of Industry was the 1st January 2018, but monitoring done in several locations in Vientiane Capital City after the January deadline showed that the most popular and widely sold cigarettes brands, ‘A Deng’ and ‘Dok Mai Deng’ produced by these two companies, still do not have the PHWs required by the law.

Photo: Taken on 10 January in Vientiane – A Deng brand with no pictorial warning, selling at LAK3,000 (£0.25) Photo: A Deng pack purchased on 18 January 2018in Vientiane with no pictorial health warning

Several days ago, on 7 February, Imperial Brands held is annual shareholders meeting in Bristol and SEATCA published an open letter to the Shareholders of Imperial Brands demanding them to respect the Lao people by complying with the tobacco control law to apply 75% pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs immediately.

British tobacco control activist, Cecilia Ferren, attended Imperial’s AGM and posed this question to the company:

Can you confirm that Imperial Tobacco and its subsidiaries around the world are observing national tobacco control legislation? If so, how do you explain the continuing presence of Lao Tobacco Limited cigarettes in the Lao market without the pictorial health warnings required by Lao law passed in May 2016? What will you do now to ensure your subsidiary obeys the law?

Imperial answered by insisting they had complied with the law since the third and final deadline of December 2017, despite the evidence in Lao showing otherwise. For more information on the issue see fact sheet here

SEATCA has sent a letter to Lao PDR Prime Minster Thongloun Sisoulith, requesting him to urgently take action for the regulation to be implemented well. SEATCA has also urged him to endorse and certify the draft penalty decree by the Ministries of Health and Justice so that the companies that violate the law can be penalized.

More than 73,000 adolescent boys and half of all men smoke in Laos. About 28% of the population lives below the poverty line, with one third of the population living on 10,400 LAK (£0.89) a day. This means money for basic household expenses is spent on tobacco, and breadwinners are at high risk of financial ruin from tobacco-caused diseases and death. About 6,200 Lao people die from tobacco-related diseases annually.

In 2017, Imperial made over £3.5bn from tobacco products. Action on Smoking and Heath (ASH) in the U.K. is conducting a wider campaign on the theme “polluter pays”. ASH says make them pay for the damage they do #ActOnTobacco (link to http://bit.ly/2DPtH3v)

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