As a politician, you should carefully consider before meeting representatives from the tobacco industry. It is part of the Tobacco Convention.
Article 5.3 of the Tobacco Convention states that countries must act to protect public health policy from commercial and other vested interests in the tobacco industry, on tobacco control issues. The reason for this harsh attitude is that for many years the tobacco industry has had a clear intention to undermine governments’ public health work on tobacco. This is explained in the introduction of the Guidelines for Article 5.3. To make it easier for countries to keep their distance, there are four main principles to be taken on.
- There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and the interests of public health policy.
- When dealing with the tobacco industry and those working to promote its interests, the government should act responsibly and transparently.
- When interacting with the tobacco industry and those who promote its interests, the government must demand them to conduct responsibly and transparently.
- Because the tobacco industry’s products are lethal, it should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses.
Based on these four main principles, there are eight recommendations for what countries should do to comply with the Convention. Point two of the recommendations is addressed directly to you as a politician. You should carefully consider the issue of the meeting with representatives of the tobacco industry. The outcome of the meeting should be reported in such a way that all citizens can take part in it.
The eight recommendations:
- Raise awareness about the harmfulness of tobacco products and of the tobacco industry’s interference with tobacco policy. This requires continuous information and training.
- Have as little as possible to do with the tobacco industry and report the interactions that yet occur. Before meeting with representatives of the tobacco industry government representatives and policymakers should carefully consider the matter. If members of parliament, for example, have such meetings, they must be reported publicly.
- Say no to partnerships and agreements with the tobacco industry. This means, among other things, that authorities should not run projects together with tobacco companies. Countries should also not enter into agreements with tobacco companies on, for example, voluntary restrictions on marketing or the like.
- Do not create conflicts of interest for government representatives and employees. Ministers, secretaries of state and other officials in the departments should, for example, not have shares in tobacco companies. They should also not be permitted to go directly from working for the government to employment in the tobacco industry.
- Demand that information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate. This can be attained by means of laws on what data tobacco companies must report.
- Limit the ability of the tobacco industry to engage in activities that the tobacco industry describes as socially responsible. This is important because tobacco companies are pleased to engage in such activities to improve their reputation.
- Do not show partiality to the tobacco industry. Neither domestic nor foreign tobacco industry must benefit in any way, for example by excepting them from stipulations in tobacco legislation.
- Treat state-owned tobacco industry in the same way as private-owned industry. Basically, however, the state should not have ownership interests in the tobacco industry, for example by shareholdings.