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November 27, 2019

Govt agencies urged to end all accord with tobacco companies


November 27, 2019

Islamabad :Among the 33 countries, Pakistan’s score on the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index (GTIII) is 66 as a country with heavy interference of tobacco industry.

The GTIII has called for banning all tobacco related corporate social responsibility activities in Pakistan, saying the government agencies must end all agreements and memorandum of agreements with tobacco companies.

The first global Index, launched by the Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR) in Pakistan, is a civil society report assessing the implementation of FCTC Article 5.3. It has used the questionnaire and scoring method of the ASEAN Tobacco Industry Interference Index, which was originally developed by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) to assess how well governments have implemented Article 5.3.

According to the index, “Conflict of interest of retired senior government officials who joined tobacco companies has been a problem” in Pakistan along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The report termed tobacco related CSR activities remained a problem, adding “Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) was able to sign Memorandum of Understanding with a few government agencies for joint CSR activities.”

It bemoaned the fact that there is no public access to information about meetings between government officials and the tobacco industry.

It said that the government should require the tobacco industry to submit information on tobacco production, manufacture, market share, marketing expenditures, revenues and lobbying activities. The index also wants a code of conduct for all civil servants on their interaction with the industry.

The report also highlights the conflict of interest. “The chairman of the PTC board is a member of the advisory committee for the Federal Ombudsman in Islamabad. Pakistan does not prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to political parties, candidates or campaigns,” says the report.

The index report says progress has been achieved in applying larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, but adds that “the tobacco industry interfered to reduce the size of the warning by lobbying non-health departments.”

“At present, there is no requirement to register representatives of the tobacco industry and related entities who are free to move within government departments and contact the officials at any time. This provides the tobacco industry numerous opportunities to influence tobacco control policies. Policy developments related to 85 per cent enhanced Pictorial Health Warning on cigarette packs and raise in tobacco taxes, among other issues, have been compromised drastically despite the well intentions of the government due to industry interference,” it mentions.

Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator, SAMAR stressed the need to register of all representatives of the tobacco industry, their affiliated organizations, and individuals acting on their behalf, maintained by the Ministry of Commerce and Board of Revenues in Pakistan.”

GTIII is based on publicly documented tobacco industry interference in 33 countries, including Pakistan, and their respective governments’ responses to these interferences for the period of January 2017 to December 2018.

The 33 countries have been ranked according to total scores provided by civil society groups who prepared their respective country indices. The lower the score, the lower the overall level of interference, which augurs well for the country.

As a countrywide network of 267 tobacco control partners, CTC Pakistan provided the assessment for the global index on the tobacco industry interference and the government response in Pakistan.