ISLAMABAD: The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index has called upon governments to ensure transparency while interacting with tobacco industry as it will reduce instances of interference to manipulate tobacco control policies and their implementation processes.

The index stressed that the tobacco industry should also be made to disclose its expenditures on marketing, lobbying and philanthropic activities.

The second Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index was launched on Tuesday by Society for Alternative Media and Research, a civil society organisation, working for tobacco control in Pakistan. The Pakistan index was launched with the global index, a civil society report assessing implementation of World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3.

Pakistan has improved its ranking to 16th position among 57 countries which are assessed for tobacco industry interference. Last year, Pakistan was at 66th position.The index said governments should require the tobacco industry to submit information on production, manufacture, market share, marketing expenditure and its revenues. It said there was a lack of transparency to facilitate deals with the industry.

Says govts need to ensure transparency with industry

According to the global index, in 2019 seven countries signed MoUs with the tobacco industry but these were made public only at signing ceremonies.

The index said the tobacco industry exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to engage with governments to an unusual level with Corporate Social Responsibility activities. The industry capitalised on the vulnerability of governments who faced shortage of resources during the pandemic.

Pakistan Tobacco Industry Interference Index said non-health departments such as the finance ministry should reject tobacco industry’s interference. It said a holistic government approach was the key for effective tobacco control policies. Besides, the tobacco industry should not be given incentives, exemptions or tax breaks to run its harmful business.

Duty-free status of tobacco at duty-free shops should also be removed. Khurram Hashmi, technical adviser tobacco control for International Union against Tuberculosis and Lungs Diseases, told Dawn that it was a timely report and hoped that the government would implement its recommendations.

“Though Pakistan has shown commitment to limit the use of tobacco, we hope it will take more steps to protect the youth from the hazards of smoking,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020