The tobacco epidemic is normally called a “non-communicable” disease, because it is not contagious and isn’t passed from one person to another. Some experts, however, have pointed out a major similarity with malaria, AIDS and other communicable diseases because like these health epidemics, it also has a vector. But unlike these diseases, the tobacco vector is not a mosquito or a snail — but rather the powerful multinational tobacco industry. Unlike mosquitos, the tobacco industry is smart, rich, and bent on increasing its reach (and its revenue).
The tobacco industry has shown time and again its willingness to use all legal (and often illegal) methods to stop efforts to control tobacco, open up new markets and addict new generations of customers. A comprehensive strategy to end the tobacco epidemic in our lifetime must include monitoring industry efforts such as marketing, lobbying, smuggling, generating misleading science, and corrupting government officials.
Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control obligates national governments to keep the tobacco industry from interfering in the process of regulating tobacco. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds, and history has shown that if the industry is precluded from participating openly, they will use graft and backdoor politics to influence decision makers in the shadows.
ASH works closely with its allies to track and publicize industry behavior. The more light we can shine on industry efforts to stop meaningful tobacco control, the less effective those efforts will be. ASH is hard at work gathering data on where the industry makes its money, how it is spent, and the economic devastation left behind. In this election year we are particularly focused on political contributions here in the U.S., which have already amounted to more than $2.8 million. After November, you can bet the industry will be back at the doors of Congress, asking for a return on their investment.
Helpful Related Link: FCTC | Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3
INDUSTRY MONITORING LINKS:
PHOTO CAPTION: The tobacco industry representatives wait in line for daily “public” badges during negotiations for the FCTC. Public badge holders cannot be recognized to speak in open session, but industry reps come armed with large expense accounts to “educate” government delegates on tobacco issues.