Tobacco Industry Obstructing Global Treaty in Southeast Asia

The Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) reports that the tobacco industry has been trying to block implementation of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international treaty designed to help curb tobacco use around the world. The FCTC requires signatory countries to adopt laws that restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion; mandate graphic tobacco labeling requirements; curb illicit trade in tobacco; assist the public with smoking cessation; and reduce secondhand smoke exposure. The FCTC also requires that participating countries protect public health efforts from tobacco industry interference, but that is proving difficult. SEATCA director Bungon Ritthiphakdee told participants at the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai, India, that the number one obstacle to implementing the tobacco treaty has been the tobacco industry. Since the treaty went into effect in 2005, the industry has aggressively expanded in Southeast Asia while working to deter, delay and dilute tobacco control laws. In some cases, the industry has sought to participate in the development of local tobacco control policies, and even offered to draft legislation for governments. The industry has also been using self-styled "corporate social responsibility" campaigns to circumvent laws and regulations in countries like the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand.