Health group renews call for ouster of tobacco industry rep from tobacco control body
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HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, once again urges Congress to amend RA 9211 to specifically exclude the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) from sitting in the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco, the government body tasked by the said law to lead the implementation of tobacco control laws.
“We are issuing the clarion call to Congress to amend RA 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, which names the Philippine Tobacco Institute as a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco. There is an inherent conflict of interest in the fact that the PTI, which promotes an industry selling products scientifically proven to cause death and diseases, sits in the very group tasked to protect public health,” said Ms. Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.
“Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), to which the Philippines is a party, mandates us to protect public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. Removing the PTI in the IAC-T is also consistent with the CSC-DOH JMC 2010-01, which prohibits the government and all its branches and instrumentalities from unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry, except when strictly necessary and solely for the purpose of monitoring compliance with tobacco control measures,” Fernandez-Mendoza added.
The tobacco industry is known for systematically engaging in underhanded moves to dilute public health measures. According to the WHO, it “has historically employed a multitude of tactics to shape and influence tobacco control policy. The tobacco industry has used its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product.”
Earlier this year, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 26. The EO imposes a nationwide smoking ban in all public and outdoor spaces and strictly prescribes standards for the creation of an indoor Designated Smoking Area in private establishments. It took effect last July 23.
Duterte also appointed Paulyn Ubial, a known tobacco control advocate and recipient of the World No Tobacco Day 2017 Award from WHO, as Health Secretary.
24 Filipinos die every day due to smoking-related illnesses.
HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates, and civil society groups working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases.