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2022 – The good, the bad and the ugly

16 December 2022

2022 had mixed outcomes for tobacco control. As the COVID-19 pandemic eased slowly, governments and international agencies played catch-up with tobacco control while the tobacco industry stepped up its business to make-up for whatever lost opportunities. We had some wins with policy advancement while others faced challenges from Big Tobacco (PMI, BAT, JTI and Imperial Brands) as it undermined government efforts and continued its ugly practices to promote its lethal products.

Special mention must be made of the World Health Organization for their timely World No Tobacco Day theme, Tobacco – Threat to our environment, and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC for calling out the harms caused by the 6 trillion cigarettes dumped into the environment.

Some governments did good in protecting public health from the tobacco industry’s interference and implemented strong public health measures. Here is a snapshot of what was bad and ugly (thumbs down), and good (thumbs up) for the year 2022.

2022 in review

International/Regional

1. The tobacco industry for harming the environment with its products An estimated 6 trillion cigarettes are littered globally each year. Cigarette butts, which are single-use plastics (SUPs), are considered the top-littered in international clean-ups. Cartons and packaging from tobacco products leave behind 2 million tons of solid waste annually.
2. CDP for awarding AAA ratings to Big Tobacco CDP, a prestigious environmental program, in awarding AAA ratings to the tobacco companies, which the companies use to boost their reputation. CDP has ignored the evidence on environmental harms caused by the tobacco companies.
3. Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction PMI funded group, CoEHAR, based at the University of Catania in Italy, wrote to the Malaysia’s Prime Minister lobbying for nicotine products to be allowed, claiming they have the potential to end smoking and revolutionise the tobacco market.
4. Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates CAPHRA for spreading misinformation that vaping can save many more lives if safer nicotine products are embraced and not demonized.
5. Japan Tobacco International Japan Tobacco International is expanding its business in the Philippines by setting up the Global Business Service Center and is considering making the Philippines the regional hub for the Asia Pacific region by manufacturing e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products locally.
National
1. The Philippines for allowing the vape bill to lapse into law The new vape law is a major step backward as it reduces minimum purchase age from 21 years to 18 years, removes the limit on flavors and shifts the regulatory authority from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Trade.
2. DARE Malaysia for misleading the public about e-cigarette A new Malaysian think tank, Datametrics Research and Information Sdn Bhd (DARE), for misleading the public that the generation end game bill will result in job losses, business closures, affect tourism and have a severe social impact on the lower-income groups and the country.
3. Indonesia for remaining friendly to the tobacco industry Indonesia is still pandering to the tobacco industry by allowing tobacco advertising and sponsorship such as the Djarum sponsorship of badminton. Indonesia hosted two big tobacco events, World Tobacco Asia and World Vape Show. Indonesia remains a non-Party to the WHO FCTC.
4. Malaysia for approving sales of e-cigarettes The Malaysian government ended its ban on sale of vaping products by announcing the Trade Descriptions (Certification and Marking) of Electronic Devices Order 2022 will allow vaping products to be legally purchased from August 2022.
5. Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc. (JVOFI) for championing PMI’s CSR program The biggest amount of tobacco donation in ASEAN region was received by JVOFI, totaling $17.3 Million. This is bigger than all other PMI donations in the ASEAN countries combined.
Counter action
International/Regional

1. The World Health Organization and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC

For calling out the tobacco industry that every year it costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 200 000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water and 84 million tonnes of CO2.

2. Launch of Global Alliance for Smoke-free Tourism (GAST) in October 2022

GAST has more than 100 ASEAN tourist destinations which includes the heritage and historical sites.
3. Smoking vaping banned at the World Cup With WHO collaboration, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar maintained the smoke-free status which also included a ban on vaping.
4. WHO for rejecting Medicago’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covifenz because of its links to PMI. In March 2022, WHO rejected Canadian COVID-19 vaccine, Covifenz, by Medicago because of its ties with Philip Morris International.

5. Launch of new Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance

A new alliance, Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA) was launched in November to champion a ban on toxic plastic filters in cigarettes at the global plastics treaty (INC-1) 28 Nov-2 Dec 2022.
National
1. Cambodia Education Ministry, and the National Authority for Combating Drugs awarded for tobacco control The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports issued guidelines to all public and private educational institutions prohibiting them from collaborating with or receiving support from tobacco industry. The NACD received a SEATCA award for banning the import, trade and use of heated tobacco products.
2. Ministry of Tourism Cambodia Cambodian Ministry of Tourism has prepared standard operating procedures for Smoke-Free Environment in the Tourism Sector and the Guidelines for a smoke-free tourism city.
3. SHA Indonesia Smoke-free Heritage Sites and Cities Alliance Indonesia includes 77 heritage sites supported by the Circular on Smoke-Free Cultural Heritage Sites signed by the DG of Culture under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology.
4. Lao PDR for strengthening tobacco control measures The Prime Minister of Lao PDR signed amendments to strengthen the tobacco control law, which provides comprehensive measures including ban on electronic smoking devices such as electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and others.
5. Singapore smoking prevalence down to 10.1% Singapore successfully reduced its adult smoking prevalence to 10.1% in 2020 through multi-pronged tobacco control measures, including a ban on electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.
6. Thailand maintains its ban on electronic smoking devices Despite coming under immense pressure from pro-e-cigarette advocates to roll back the ban on electronic smoking devices, Thailand stood firm in keeping the ban.

Here’s to stronger tobacco control in 2023. Happy New Year, everyone!

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