World No Tobacco Day

Combatting the ‘shameless’ tobacco companies


WHO came out with a strongly worded statement denouncing the tobacco industry, saying national leaders need to be extra vigilant of the “aggressive attacks by the industry which undermine policies that protect people from the harms of tobacco”.

“Multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into court rooms,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, on the occasion of this year’s World No Tobacco Day on 31 May. “We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens.”

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is Tobacco industry interference. On the day, WHO released a resource paper and global brief to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference.

The paper covers a range of issues including:

• manoeuvring to hijack the political and legislative process
• exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry
• manipulating public opinion to gain the appearance of respectability
• fabricating support through front groups
• discrediting proven science
• intimidating governments with litigation or the threat of litigation.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative department, said: “National leaders need to resist these tactics and use the full force of the Convention to protect the hard won gains to safeguard people’s health from the scourge of tobacco.”

Speaking in Cairo on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, Dr Ala Alwan, Regional Director for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, said: “Issuing laws and adopting appropriate measures to ban tobacco advertising, increase taxes on tobacco products, place pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs and ban smoking in public places are the only ways to counter the tobacco epidemic.

“It is the only way to fight an epidemic deadlier than history’s most destructive wars,” he added.

And the figures are shocking. Tobacco kills up to half its users – that’s around 6 million a year. By 2030, WHO estimates that tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year, with four out of five of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardio vascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs account for 63% of all deaths worldwide.

In nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand smoke is estimated to kill another 600,000 people annually. Almost half of all children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke and more than 40% of children have at least one smoking parent. In 2004, children accounted for nearly one third of deaths attributable to secondhand smoke.

“Deaths and illnesses caused by tobacco use and exposure to its smoke can be prevented,” explains Dr Alwan. “The guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are the platform, and include a set of clearly defined recommendations for addressing tobacco industry interference in public health policies.”

In line with article 5.3 countries should, among other measures: limit interactions and disclose all meetings with the tobacco industry; reject partnerships and nonbinding agreements with the industry; refuse funds and other support, and reject industry endorsement and participation in youth initiatives.

In addition, countries should not grant incentives, privileges or benefits to the tobacco industry, such as subsidies or tax exemptions, and should create firewalls against the interference of the tobacco industry in public health, including State-owned tobacco companies.

Information sheet on tobacco industry interference

• The resource paper: WNTD 2012: tobacco industry interference (pdf, 304kb):

 Date of upload: 26th Jul 2012


                                               Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.