The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Papua New Guinea Health Minister Fights BAT

The Ministry of Health of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is refusing to attend meetings called by British American Tobacco (BAT) to establish a government-industry committee that would vet all policy and legislative matters concerning tobacco control.

In recent weeks BAT, via PNG’s Minister for Finance & Treasury, proposed to the National Executive Council (NEC) the creation of a government-industry committee.

Membership would include five BAT officials and representatives of various Government departments. However, officers from the Ministry of Health who were invited to participate have refused to attend any meetings.

Article 5.3 of the global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), prohibits tobacco industry involvement in setting and implementing policy concerning tobacco control. PNG is a Party to the FCTC.

The Pacific Island country is in the process of finalising comprehensive tobacco control legislation that would be compliant with the FCTC. This would include bans on tobacco advertising and graphic health warnings on tobacco packages.

PNG is also now taking measures to increase tobacco taxes to ensure sustainable funding for tobacco control, ban sales of kiddie packs and loose cigarettes, and prohibit smoking in restaurants, clubs and hotels.

BAT is the only cigarette maker in PNG where, according to the 2007 School-based Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), the smoking prevalence of school children aged 13 to 15 was 55.3 per cent.

According to BAT’s proposal, the committee’s purpose would be to serve as a consultative, advisory and reviewing authority on all policy and legislative matters relating to the tobacco industry.

The submission also raises the spectre of illicit trade in tobacco products leading to serious threats to the security of the country, adding that there is now lack of direction and coordination at the national level in addressing these issues.

According to the committee’s terms of reference, BAT would be named the committee’s Secretariat, with the power to follow up on decisions made by the TWC and ensure that they are implemented.

Minister for Health Jaime Maxtone-Graham responded to BAT’s proposal with a public statement: “This meeting should not take place, should not be convened by British American Tobacco and should not be attended by anyone concerned about improving public health in Papua New Guinea.” 

“The tobacco industry has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of governments in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic,” he added.


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