NGOs Issue Global Call on Namibia to stand strong against tobacco industry bullying

29 Nov 2011

NGOs Issue Global Call on Namibia to stand strong against tobacco industry bullying

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA – In response to British American Tobacco (BAT)’s threats to sue the government of Namibia, a global network representing more than 50 countries is calling on the government to prioritize public health and stand strong in the face of industry bullying.

The Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) sent a letter to Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kwemi urging the government to protect current and future generations from tobacco addiction, disease, and death.

NATT members are also calling on Dr Kwemi to invoke Article 5.3 of the global tobacco treaty (FCTC), which obligates ratifying countries to protect their health policies from tobacco industry interference, as a tool to stand up to BAT.

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death around the world, killing nearly six million people each year. The WHO projects that the death toll will rise to more than eight million by 2030, with 80% of these deaths in developing countries. Tobacco control efforts have been advancing globally, including the adoption and entry into force of the global tobacco treaty. With these tools, governments are putting a dent in Big Tobacco’s ability to spread this preventable epidemic through comprehensive tobacco control laws. Namibia ratified the global tobacco treaty and passed its Tobacco Products Control Act in 2010.

Namibia is not alone in facing Big Tobacco’s bullying tactics. The industry, led by BAT and Philip Morris International (PMI), is currently challenging policies in Australia, Uruguay, Norway, the United States, and the United Kingdom for implementing policies aimed at protecting the public from the deadly effects of smoking. Industry challenges to effective public health measures are a clear attempt to intimidate countries from pursuing effective policies. However, governments like Australia, which just passed a law last Monday, November 21st that requires plain packaging for cigarettes, are standing up to industry intimidation.

“The primary challenge to the global tobacco treaty is a defiant, invasive, and ultimately deadly industry. Ending tobacco industry interference is paramount to protecting the lifesaving provisions of the world’s first public health and corporate accountability treaty,” said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, chair of NATT.

“We congratulate the government of Namibia for its commitment to enforce one of the key provisions of the treaty, and encourage the government of Namibia and all Parties to stand strong against similar assaults.”

Effective packaging and labelling measures, like graphic health warnings, are a critical element of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control and a key way to counter tobacco marketing to children and youth. Strong graphic health information labels communicate the risks of tobacco addiction, disease and death.

NATT is urging the Namibian government to recognize its obligations under the global tobacco treaty, which stipulates that public health should be prioritized overtrade, and its Article 5.3 Guidelines that governments should refuse to 1) treat tobacco corporations as “stakeholders” in public health policy, 2) invest in the tobacco industry, 3) partner with them to achieve health outcomes, or 4) accept their so-called corporate social responsibility schemes.

“British American Tobacco is aggressively working to expand the sales of its deadly product herein Southern Africa despite advances in tobacco control policy, but countries, large and small, refuse to be intimidated; they are standing up to the industry’s bullying,” said Muyunda Ililongaof the Zambian NGO, Zambia Consumer Association.

“Namibia should set an example for the rest of the region by refusing to give in to these underhanded tactic sand stand strong against BAT’s bullying.”


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