LINDA SOKO TEMBO writes
A GLOBAL tobacco industry watchdog has petitioned every member and observer at the United Nations General Assembly to refrain from accepting money, establishing partnerships, or attending events that involve tobacco industry entities.
Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA) executive director Brenda Chitindi said the organisation had joined more than 100 public health organizations to urge a complete rejection of the tobacco industry at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s 74th Session.
Ms Chitindi said any work conducted by the UN or its members in partnership with tobacco interests would lead to a direct violation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty. “An international group of 142 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including TOFAZA and individuals from 42 countries including Zambia organized a Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) programme.
“A global tobacco industry watchdog has petitioned every member and observer at the United Nations General Assembly to refrain from accepting money, establishing partnerships, or attending events that involve tobacco industry entities,” she said.
Ms Chitindi explained that STOP was a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission was to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. She said STOP cautioned against the tobacco industry’s efforts to ingratiate themselves to delegates in an effort to influence UN policy making.
Ms Chitindi said the request came two months after the former head of the UN Geneva office as one of his final actions in an official capacity requested that the UN should reconsider the exclusion of tobacco entities from its work on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“UN delegations risk being complicit in tobacco-related deaths if they allow the industry to influence UN policy making,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, executive director of Global Center for Good Governance on Tobacco Control and a partner in STOP. “Tobacco use causes cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other illnesses, and thus undermines all the Sustainable Development Goals.” Ms Chitindi said according to the letter signed by health advocates around the world stated that “Every year, the tobacco industry’s products claim 8 million lives and cause losses worth at least $1.4 trillion, leaving behind a devastating trail of social, economic, environmental and health harms.
She said the letter further said the Partnership with the tobacco industry, directly contradicted the Sustainable Development Goals, and constituted a major reversal of the progress achieved towards the attainment of SDG 3 (Healthy Lives).
“This includes strengthening the implementation of the FCTC, a treaty that requires governments to protect public health from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry (Article 5.3).
And Rebecca Perl of Vice President of Partnerships and Initiatives at Vital Strategies and a partner in STOP said Tobacco lobbying lingered longer than cigarette smoke and ultimately hurts people and economies.
“Big tobacco works hard to gain access to the UN because the standards set in international forums cascade downward to national and local policy,” she said.