Tobacco companies interfere with health regulations, WHO discloses.

By Unknown - July 20, 2017

Tobacco Smoking Effects

Companies manufacturing cigarettes are making efforts to frustrate government tobacco controls wherever possible, even as governments are  making progress in regulating the products, says a World Health Organization report.

World Health representatives also alerts that tobacco companies have moved the fight to developing countries such as those in Africa where in the coming decades,  smoking rates are speculated to increase in twofold.

Tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco, issued threats to African countries with domestic and trade lawsuits if definite anti-smoking standards were established, according to recent investigations by the Guardian. BAT says it is not against the guidelines but needs to take measures from “time to time”.

Tobacco products are the major causes of avoidable deaths. More than 7 million people die each year from tobacco-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The effects of the substance are also costly. According to researchers, tobacco-related harm costs the world $1.4tn in health care costs and lost productivity.

Director of the WHO’s department for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases, Douglas Bettcher said this regarding the issue:
“tobacco industry interference in government policy making represents a deadly barrier to advancing health and development in many countries.” “But by monitoring and blocking such activities, we can save lives and sow the seeds for a sustainable future for all.”

Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of WHO’s convention secretariat also speaks regarding the issue;
“The epicentre of this epidemic has moved to the developing world. Low and middle-income countries struggle to combat a tobacco industry seeking to pursue new markets, often through shameless interference with public health policy making.”

Investigations by Reuters found that BAT’s arch-rival, Philip Morris International, has made an extensive influencing campaign to slow down and stop tobacco controls. PMI says there is nothing unprofessional about its directors engaging with government officials.

 WHO report of Wednesday, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, happened the same day as a shareholder vote on a $49bn merger between BAT and Reynolds American Incorporated. That contract would make BAT the worlds largest listed tobacco company.

Presently, World Health Organization suggests to countries put in place six regulations health officials see as critical to reducing smoking: systems to monitor smoking rates; laws protecting people from secondhand smoke; means to help people quit; alerting the public about the dangers of tobacco use; enforcing advertising bans, and increasing  taxes on tobacco products.

Officials said that in 10 countries, six have put into effect at least one of the six protections. That increases the population that was protected in 2007 to fourfold

Some suggestions though have been far more widely accepted than others, making the progress unbalanced.  For instance, in 78 countries, 3.5 billion people are protected by illustrative alerts on cigarette packs, but only 15% of the world’s population are protected by more effective measures including  comprehensive advertising bans and high tobacco taxes.

Wealthy nations have had difficulties in establishing tobacco control regulations. For instance, in the United States, there are no graphic warnings on cigarette packs because of industry lawsuits and regulatory delay, and the taxes on tobacco usage still remains low.

In the US, anti-tobacco lawmakers and activists blame the slow progress on “pervasive” tobacco industry influence, which goes all the way to top executives in the White House.

“Countries can prevent millions of deaths each year from avoidable tobacco-related diseases,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “Governments around the world must waste no time”.

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