MORE NON-SMOKERS WILL DIE AS TOBACCO INDUSTRY WEAKENS SMOKEFREE LAWS
Thursday 31st May 2012 (Geneva): Today, on World No Tobacco Day, the Global Smokefree Partnership (GSP1) – a global initiative of over 60 organizations committed to promoting effective smokefree air policies - urged governments to free themselves from tobacco industry influence. The direct and indirect involvement of the tobacco industry in formulating government policy - through lobbying, threats, intimidation and fraudulent science - is preventing many countries from approving and enforcing 100 per cent smokefree laws that would save the lives of smokers and non-smokers alike.
There are many examples of the tobacco industry infiltrating and lobbying governments to weaken existing smokefree laws. In The Netherlands2, existing smokefree laws have been partially reversed, reducing overall levels of compliance - while reimbursement for stop smoking medications has been stopped and tobacco control initiatives severely cut. Another example is Indonesia, where the tobacco industry has thwarted smokefree legislation at local, regional and national levels while the industry is still free to advertise its deadly product, addicting children from age 5.
“The tobacco industry is expending considerable effort to slow and impede the implementation of effective laws that protect people against secondhand smoke. Since most countries have signed an international treaty to implement such laws and to limit tobacco industry influence, this industry behaviour amounts to subversion of international law and lives lost,” states Pascal Diethelm, President of OxyRomandie. “Meanwhile, in Australia and Uruguay, the industry is exploiting trade agreements and threatening governments with expensive litigation to delay the implementation of plain packaging and large pictorial health warnings that help dissuade people from smoking. By taking such aggressive action, the tobacco industry hopes to intimidate these and other countries from taking stronger action to reduce tobacco use and protect their citizens.”
PROGRESS AGAINST INDUSTRY INFLUENCE IS POSSIBLE
GSP is actively involved in countering tobacco industry tactics through public awareness and dissemination of best practices. In China, GSP has worked with partners to produce and distribute materials to educate people about tobacco and its harms, including a DVD and fact sheet that demonstrates the link between secondhand smoke and heart disease, toolkits to help workplaces go smokefree and a guide to enforcing smokefree policies. These efforts have been successful. This World No Tobacco Day, two of China’s largest cities – Harbin and Tianjin - are enacting 100% smokefree laws. It is hoped that by showing the benefits of smokefree legislation at the City level, public support can grow for a national law.
Francisco Rodríguez Lozano, President of CNPT (the Spanish National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking) commented: “In Spain, we worked tirelessly to persuade the government to reject a weak indoor smoking law with exemptions in the hospitality sector. This was proven to be ineffective, which is why it was widely promoted by the tobacco industry in Spain and around the world. We overcame the tobacco industry’s interference and Spain now has adopted a comprehensive smokefree law that effectively reduces indoor air pollution. Costa Rica has passed its national tobacco control law despite legal challenges from the tobacco industry. Similarly, Brazil recently enacted laws banning tobacco additives and a national comprehensive smokefree law, making it the largest country in the world with 100% smokefree legislation. All these achievements would not have been possible if tobacco industry efforts to counter them had not been neutralised.”
Laura Salgado, Co-Chair of GSP, concluded: “Currently, just over 10% of the world’s citizens live in countries with laws that require that all enclosed work places and public places to be smokefree or with legislation that, in practice, protects citizens from secondhand smoke in enclosed public spaces. However, every continent now has countries with 100% smokefree laws and success stories from around the world show what can be achieved when governments reject industry interference and keep the tobacco industry at arms’ length from tobacco control policies. Today we urge all governments to comply with their international obligations and exclude the tobacco industry from all health policy matters. If we can increase the number of countries enacting and enforcing 100% smokefree legislation we can save millions of lives, including the 600,0003 estimated to die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Notes to Editors:
1. About The Global Smokefree Partnership
The Global Smokefree Partnership (GSP) is a global partnership initiated in 2007 to coordinate the development of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 8 guidelines. It played a strategic role in coordinating the unanimous adoption of the FCTC at the Conference of the Parties (COP) II in Bangkok in July 2007. It facilitates access to evidence and advocates and builds support for the development, implementation and enforcement of effective smokefree air policy and legislation, as exemplified by FCTC Article 8 Guidelines. GSP is hosted by the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA). It brings together civil society and nongovernmental organizations, universities, intergovernmental organizations, ministries of health, corporations, and individuals active in international smokefree air policy. More information about GSP’s activities is available at: www.globalsmokefreepartnership.org
2. Tobacco Industry Activity in The Netherlands
Evidence shows that the tobacco industry initiated resistance against the smokefree law implemented in the Netherlands in July 2008, through a “Save the small bars” foundation, which started legal proceedings against the smokefree law. Although it did not win its legal challenge, the group’s media campaigns did generate public support. Subsequently, close links between tobacco industry lobbyists and the Liberal party that formed the government after the 2010 national elections, led to the partial reversal of the smokefree law in November 2010. The reversal was supposed to apply only to small pubs with no additional staff, but it also led to a reduction in the number of smokefree larger pubs. In Spring 2011, only 58% of these bars and discotheques were smokefree, whereas previously the compliance rate had been 83% (Spring 2009).
3. Source: “Global SHS Deaths in Men, Women, and Children”, Öberg M, Jaakkola M, Woodward A, Peruga, A, Prüss-Ustün A. (2011). Worldwide burden of disease from exposure to secondhand smoke: A retrospective analysis of data from 192 countries. Lancet, 377: 139–146.
4. Further information
More information on World No Tobacco Day is available at http://www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/en/ and further resources may be accessed via the Framework Convention Alliance website