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50% of global combustible cigarette market controlled by governments

By Our Correspondent
September 19, 2020

Islamabad : Nearly 50% of the global combustible cigarette market is controlled by governments that claim commitment to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which seeks to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure, reveals new research.

Titled ‘Contradictions and Conflicts,’ the report identifies contradictions between governments’ fiduciary responsibility to maximize state monopoly profitability and their health responsibility to minimize public health risks, as well as generate potential solutions. The research has been co-authored by Assistant Professor of Business Ethics at Dublin’s Trinity College Daniel Malan, and visiting faculty member of the University of Stellenbosch Business School Brett Hamilton.

According to the report, eight FCTC countries including China, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, and Vietnam own 100% of at least one tobacco company. “Our research underlines a clear conflict of interest among these FCTC signatories,” said Daniel. FCTC’s Article 5.3 requires parties to protect the implementation of their public health policies against commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. “Yet, this is impossible when many of the same countries are also striving to generate revenue from state-owned tobacco entities,” he added.

The report notes that state monopolies are not subject to multinational governance, and pressure from national government organizations has been largely ignored within the tobacco industry. There are also no clear differences in health policies or burden of disease data when compared with countries where there is no significant state ownership of tobacco companies. As a result, the WHO may find it challenging to identify a one-size-fits-all solution to this conflict of interest, the report states.

Offering solutions for governments with state-owned tobacco interests, the report suggests shifting from the production and marketing of combustible cigarettes over time to tobacco harm-reduction products. Leading researchers and organizations such as the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World are mobilizing globally to create solutions that help expand knowledge in cessation and harm-reduction areas, including biomarker discovery, outcomes of quitting/switching on the microbiome, and innovative clinical trial designs for cessation therapies.

“The data show a need to not only regulate state-owned tobacco companies but also to encourage them to evolve their business models toward the development and promotion of innovative harm-reduction solutions,” said Dr. Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. “More than 8 million people die from tobacco-related illnesses each year. Governments must act to directly address the long-term health and wellness of the people living in their countries.”