People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
- November 13, 2013
A local non-governmental organisation is celebrating after five years of struggle resulted in the Government of Gabon adopting its first tobacco control law in October.
The campaign began when the Mouvement Populaire pour la Santé, with support from WHO, FCA and others, began advocating for the West African nation to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It succeeded on 20 February 2009, when Gabon became a Party to the treaty.
The NGO then led the drafting of a tobacco control law compliant with the FCTC, with technical assistance from the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA). The law includes:
- Text-only health warnings covering 60 percent of the front of the pack and 65 percent of the back;
- A partial ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS);
- A ban on sales to minors;
- Smoke-free public spaces with exceptions, including transportation by sea or rail, airports, hotels, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and supermarkets.
Once the draft was complete, the advocacy phase began.
"It was very long, with many setbacks, notably unrelenting pressure from the tobacco industry to block the law," says Thanguy Nzue Obame, President of the Mouvement.
"We met all the concerned ministers (Health, Justice, Commerce, Finance), the leaders of institutions, including the President of the National Assembly and the Secretary General of the Senate. We organised meetings with political representatives and workshops with Government representatives."
"As a result of our activities, the National Assembly sent a formal request to the Ministers of Health and Justice to accelerate the adoption of the law."
The industry redoubled its efforts. It managed to have two parallel laws introduced in the Assembly, and worked relentlessly to win the support of the Prime Minister.
The Mouvement and its partners kept fighting. "We organised radio programmes, televised debates and media conferences to expose people within the system who were hampering the process of adoption and who appeared to be working in the interests of the tobacco industry," says Thanguy.
On 21 August 2013 the President promulgated the tobacco control law. The battle truly ended in October, when the law was published in the official gazette.
While the Mouvement celebrated the victory, thanking the partners who worked with it during the past five years, it has already moved on to the next stage of the process: drafting regulations to that the law will be effectively implemented.