Global govts: Make to­bacco firms li­able for smok­ing harm

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A global con­fer­ence on to­bacco con­trol has pledged to hold the to­bacco in­dus­try legally li­able for health con­se­quences of smok­ing and pro­tect pub­lic health poli­cies from the in­flu­ence of to­bacco com­pa­nies. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from around 180 coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s global to­bacco con­trol treaty ne­go­ti­a­tions on Satur­day adopted a dec­la­ra­tion in which they also vowed to pro­hibit or reg­u­late the sale of eci­garettes. The six-day con­fer­ence on the Frame­work Con­ven­tion on To­bacco Con­trol, or FCTC, con­cluded with par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries agree­ing to pro­mote al­ter­na­tive liveli­hoods for to­bacco farm­ers that would en­sure a bet­ter fu­ture for them.

Pub­lic health ac­tivists say smok­ing-re­lated deaths are still ris­ing world­wide, with 80 per­cent of them ex­pected to oc­cur in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries by 2030. The WHO says that with­out strong con­trol mea­sures, to­bacco will kill about 1 bil­lion peo­ple in the 21st cen­tury. The more than 1,500 del­e­gates ex­pressed their con­cern about per­sis­tent at­tempts by the to­bacco in­dus­try to in­fil­trate the meet­ings in or­der to in­flu­ence the work­ing and the out­comes of the con­fer­ence. The dec­la­ra­tion cau­tioned gov­ern­ments against ef­forts by big to­bacco com­pa­nies to di­lute health poli­cies, sub­vert mea­sures to re­strict to­bacco sales and un­der­mine the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the FCTC. “The long hours of de­bate and plan­ning has pro­duced a strong road map for global to­bacco con­trol for the fu­ture,” Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the con­ven­tion sec­re­tariat, told re­porters.

She said the to­bacco in­dus­try was “de­ter­mined to un­der­mine and dis­tract us from our goal - to fight against the to­bacco epi­demic that not only dam­ages health and kills peo­ple, but also im­pov­er­ishes those liv­ing in low- to mid­dle-in­come coun­tries.” The con­fer­ence dec­la­ra­tion in­cluded mea­sures to hold big to­bacco com­pa­nies li­able for the health con­se­quences of its prod­ucts, re­cover health care costs and fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to jus­tice for victims of to­bacco-re­lated diseases.

Since they set down stiff reg­u­la­tions and guide­lines in the land­mark 2003 FCTC treaty - the first and only global treaty deal­ing with pub­lic health - most of the 180 sig­na­to­ries have rat­i­fied it and passed laws re­strict­ing to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing or sales. Still, many gov­ern­ments re­main en­tan­gled with pow­er­ful to­bacco com­pa­nies, while in­dus­try lob­by­ists con­tinue at­tempts to stymie ef­forts to im­ple­ment anti-smok­ing laws through bribery, mis­in­for­ma­tion and even su­ing na­tional gov­ern­ments for lost prof­its, cam­paign­ers say.

Health ac­tivists hailed the de­ci­sion on le­gal li­a­bil­ity, say­ing it could set a prece­dent for hold­ing other in­dus­tries ac­count­able for en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age or pub­lic health harms they could cause. “The to­bacco in­dus­try is the sin­gle largest bar­rier to to­bacco con­trol poli­cies glob­ally - and these ne­go­ti­a­tions were no ex­cep­tion,” said John Ste­wart, deputy cam­paigns di­rec­tor at the Bos­ton­based lob­by­ing group Cor­po­rate Ac­count­abil­ity In­ter­na­tional. Ste­wart said the firm stand taken by del­e­gates, who stood up to the to­bacco in­dus­try, had en­abled gov­ern­ments to adopt “some of the strong­est mea­sures yet to pro­tect mil­lions of peo­ple’s lives.”—AP

NEW DELHI: In this file photo, an In­dian man takes a ci­garette from a pack in New Delhi, In­dia.—AP

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