CSOs in Zambia Expose Tobacco Industry Schemes to block proposed WHO FCTC Regulatory Policies

By Chris Zumani Zimba

  1. Introduction

WHO FCTC“We, the Zambia Tobacco Control Consortium, have been advocating for the domestication of the Tobacco Control Bill since 2009 and have witnessed several frustrations in the process from the industry…As we speak, the industry is busy organizing itself to do the same this month by engaging and misleading the Ministry of Agriculture, Finance, Commerce, Trade and Industry on proposal tobacco control laws… We therefore demand the Zambian government to effect the implementation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) be expedited which seeks to protect tobacco control policies from tobacco industry interference”, … Professor Fastone Goma, president of the Zambia Hearty and Stroke Foundation (ZAHESFO) observed on 24th May, 2019.

Prof. Goma was speaking at a crowded Press Conference in Lusaka entitled “Health advocates implores government to resist tobacco industry interference in tobacco control law development” when and where more than more nine (9) tobacco control civil society organizations (CSOs) gathered at Zamcom Lodge to address the media on 24th May, 2019 concerning the captioned matter.

To appreciate this press engagement and the rationale for the title, let us start with one case involving big tobacco at global level. America’s giant cigarette maker, Philip Morris International Inc’s internal “marketing standards” prohibit it from promoting tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25.”  But after investigations and public report by Reuters News Agency, it was discovered that the company violates its own rules and ethnics in many countries as they use young online personalities to sell its new “heated tobacco” device, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia. Hence, Philip Morris announced that they had suspended a global social media marketing campaign in response to the inquiries as reported by Reuters’s Chris Kirkham on 10th May, 2019.  Did they really stop? No!, the industry is generally allergic to policy controls.

Jenna Mosley, International Communications Manager for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids exposed Philip Morris’s big lies and deceits about the captioned suspension. He reported that “Images from influencers are still viewable online. New posts from influencers appear to still be appearing on social media. Philip Morris continues to make every effort to target young people with online marketing campaigns including directly engaging young social media influencers, training social media influencers to share their products online, and hosting parties for young influencers that include photo booths and backdrops explicitly designed for social media sharing”, Mosley concludes. The behavior of Philip Morris at global level is not in any way different from the behavior of many tobacco companies in Zambia with regards to their continues crude manipulations, less complaint and interference in tobacco control policies.

  1. Key points exposing tobacco industry’s schemed manipulations and interference in blocking proposed tobacco control policies in Zambia

 The Press Conference took 2hours as the media fraternity raised questions after questions to get clarifications on different talking points. “It is not acceptable for the tobacco industry to falsely claim that ‘they support a balanced, evidence‐based regulation of tobacco products that meets public health objectives while not impeding the ability to compete, respects legal rights and protects the livelihoods of the tobacco value chain, including retailers and farmers’ when in the actual sense, the industry completely objects and denounces the entire proposed “Tobacco and Nicotine Products Bill” with schemed misleading facts and twisted interpretations of the WHO FCTC”, Prof Goma noted.  

Speaking on behalf the CSOs, Prof Goma told the journalists that it was very unfortunate and disturbing to learn that the tobacco industry is this month planning to meet some top government officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance as well as Commerce and Trade in closed door secret meetings with the aim of misinforming and manipulating them on the proposed tobacco control law. Below are some key examples of schemed falsehoods the tobacco industry are now deliberately twisting as they secretly meet some government officials in order to block or delay FCTC domestication as highlighted by Prof. Goma with clear responses based on actual FCTC standard facts:

Tobacco Industry False Claim:  “The treaty seeks to outlaw tobacco farming and trading in the country.  Tobacco control and WHO FCTC public sensitizations in Zambia seeks to demonizing tobacco industry and will lead to loss of investment with implications such as loss of employment and tax revenue, reduced livelihoods of smallholder farmers and retailers.

Actual Facts and Response: WHO FCTC Article 12 on “Education, communication, training and public awareness” provides that… (a)broad access to effective and comprehensive educational and public awareness programmes on the health risks including the addictive characteristics of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke; …(f) public awareness of and access to information regarding the adverse health, economic, and environmental consequences of tobacco production and consumption. There is no provision in the FCTC which aims to outlaw or ban tobacco farming or trade.

Tobacco Industry False Claim:  Proposed “Retail display Bans” (RDB) will be counterproductive as the weight of scientific evidence demonstrates that an RDB would not actually reduce smoking prevalence (generally or among young persons).

Actual Facts and Response: Tobacco is addictive and enslaves the users to be consuming it perpetually. This means that, tobacco industry violates the rights of smokers as they have “no choice” but to continue smoking these addictive products.  Retail display bans once adopted and implemented will therefore protect initiation and tobacco use of addictive tobacco products especially among children, pupils and the youth. It is working in Australia, Canada, Mauritius, SA and many other countries.

Tobacco Industry False Claim:  We are excluded in tobacco law development while FCTC Article 5.3 does not exclude the tobacco Industry in participating in tobacco control policies. This is unfair!

Actual Facts and Response: FCTC Article 5.3. says: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”. “Does Ministry of Health invite mosquitoes when planning to eradicate malaria?”, Prof. Goma asked.  “Of course no because of conflict of interest”, answered Brendah Chitindi from TOFAZA. The participants laughed and clapped.

Tobacco Industry False Claim:  Enforcing bans on public place smoking will act as an infringement on human rights (adult smokers). Public place smoking is regulated and restricted by existing regulations, permitting smoking only in areas specifically designated for that purpose, provided that air extraction and signage requirements are met.

Actual Facts and Response: WHO FCTC Article 8 “Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke” (1) Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability; (2) Each Party shall adopt and implement in areas of existing national jurisdiction as determined by national law and actively promote at other jurisdictional levels the adoption and implementation of effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures, providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places. Therefore, the claims by the industry are false, manipulative and baseless.

Tobacco Industry False Claim: Proposed Increase Tobacco Taxation should be effected after conducting proper Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) to determine impact on competitive opportunities in consultations with Industry to enhance revenue assurance.

Actual Facts and Response: In line with the WHO FCTC obligations, public health takes precedence over trade. Therefore, Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA) becomes unnecessary in light of the Zambia Investment Case on Tobacco Control. The 2019 report by Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) New York Office, WHO FCTC Secretariat and RTI International disclosed that if Zambia fully implemented and enforced the six (6) priority FCTC policy measures between 5 to 15 years, the country stands to benefits the following health and economic gains: (1) The country can save K12.4 billion, thereby spurring huge economic growth and national development; (2) K685 Million will be averted in healthcare expenditures over 15 years with K329 Million saved in government healthcare and K188 Million saved in out-of-pocket health care costs; and (3) Government will directly prevent and save 40,349 Zambian lives. Therefore, it is clear that tobacco control measures in Zambia as prescribed in the WHO FCTC need to be exempted from RIA.

Tobacco Industry False Claim: There is no direct connection between increase in tobacco taxation and reduction in tobacco use and consumption in any country.

Actual Facts and Response: According to the FCTC Article 6 Guidelines: (1.2) Effective tobacco taxes significantly reduce tobacco consumption and prevalence. Effective taxes on tobacco products that lead to higher real consumer prices (inflation-adjusted) are desirable because they lower consumption and prevalence, and thereby in turn reduce mortality and morbidity and improve the health of the population. Increasing tobacco taxes is particularly important for protecting young people from initiating or continuing tobacco consumption.

(1.3) Effective tobacco taxes are an important source of revenue. Effective tobacco taxes contribute significantly to State budgets. Increasing tobacco taxes generally further increases government revenues, as the increase in tax normally outweighs the decline in consumption of tobacco products.

Tobacco Industry False Claim: Proposed implementation and enforcement of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion is classical extreme regulation that will lead to loss of positive externalities from industry i.e. building of schools, hospitals, extension services to tobacco farmers, and digging boreholes in rural communities in line with governments rural and urban development agenda.

Actual Facts and Response: Article 1 (g) of the WHO FCTC says: “tobacco sponsorship” means any form of contribution to any event, activity or individual with the aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly; Guidelines to Article 13 under Principle (a): It is well documented that tobacco advertising, promotion and     sponsorship increase tobacco use and that comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship decrease tobacco     use.

Guidelines to Article 13 of the FCTC on “Corporate social responsibility” says: It is increasingly common for tobacco companies to seek to portray themselves as good corporate citizens by making contributions to deserving causes or by otherwise promoting “socially responsible” elements of their business practices…Some tobacco companies make financial or in-kind contributions to organizations, such as community, health, welfare or environmental organizations, either directly or through other entities. Such contributions fall within the definition of tobacco sponsorship in Article 1(g) of the Convention and should be prohibited as part of a comprehensive ban, because the aim, effect or likely effect of such a contribution is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly…

Promotion to the public of such otherwise commendable activities should be prohibited, as their aim, effect or likely effect is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly. Public dissemination of such information should be prohibited, except for the purposes of required corporate reporting (such as annual reports) or necessary business administration (e.g. for recruitment purposes and communications with suppliers). For example, the treatment of tobacco caused cancers is U$3,400.00 (K44, 200.00) per patient in addition to other costs such as productivity loses in terms of absenteeism and presentism, morbidity, mortality and other direct and indirect costs. Therefore, tobacco companies must take responsibility to start paying these health bills and costs of treating tobacco related illnesses that are on the increase in Zambia than digging boreholes around tobacco farming villages.

Tobacco Industry False Claim: Proposed 65% mandatory Tobacco Graphic Health Warnings on packaging with 60 day rotation is harsh for business as the WHO FCTC requirement is implement 30% health warning.

Actual Facts and Response: The recommended period for rotation of mandatory 75%, Tobacco Graphic Health Warnings is 2 years and not 60 days as proclaimed the industry.The WHO FCTC Article 11. 1. B. below says: (b) Each unit packet and package of tobacco products and any outside packaging and labelling of such products also carry health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use, and may include other appropriate messages. These warnings and messages:

  1. Shall be approved by the competent national authority,
  2. Shall be rotating,
  • Shall be large, clear, visible and legible,
  1. Should be 50% or more of the principal display areas but shall be no less than 30% of the principal display areas,
  2. May be in the form of or include pictures or pictograms.
  3. Examples of countries implementing graphic health warnings include Madagascar at 65% of the front and back of the pack; Mauritius at 60% of the front and 70% of the back.

Conclusion

The cases cited above are classical examples of what constituted Prof. Goma’s press statement. Since the ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2008, the tobacco industry in Zambia has not ceased to scheme and run such with multiple twisted schemes and ‘empirical deceptions’ in the corridors of Ministry of Agriculture, Finance as well as Commerce and Trade where they throw poisonous manipulative facts against any form of improved tobacco control and regulation in the country. And for the past decades, Zambia’s pro FCTC government and public health civil society players have endured well schemed tactical interferences and brutal policy maneuvers from the tobacco industry in resisting and blocking progressive FCTC recommendations, measures and regulations.  In the name of ‘over praising’ the economic and financial benefits of what they call ‘the copper-leaf’ and maliciously ignoring to accept the devastating harmful effects of the ‘deadly evil leaf’, it is now clear that the tobacco industry’s honey moon days to block and interfere in policy control in Zambia seem to be over as the civil society is too alert and always ahead of them.

While the tobacco industry always prioritize trade over human health and stand ready to manipulate anyone and use anything in preserving their huge business profits from tobacco, the tobacco control movement in Zambia is saying “NO” and their message was loud and clear on 24th May, 2019 at Zamcom Lodge in their collective Press Conference read and led by Prof. Goma. Other tobacco control civil society organizations present include Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA), Centre for Advocacy and Research on Tobacco Control in Zambia (CARTOCOZA) under Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU), Anti-Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association of Zambia, Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA), Zambian Cancer Society , and Zambia Media Network Against Tobacco among others.

Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. He is the lead researcher with “Centre for Advocacy and Research on Tobacco Control in Zambi0a” (CARTOCOZA) under Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia where he is the CEO.  Besides analysing African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT, he has also authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles on African politics and public health. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS). Chriszumanizimba.cz@gmail.com or chriszumanizimba@yahoo.com; +260 973 153 815

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