Countering Government Sponsored Global Tobacco Trade Meet
Indian Political Leaders : 1. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India 2. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, President - Indian National Congress, 3. Mr. Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce & Industry 4. Mr. Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Minister of State - Commerce and In
Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, Members of Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control
More Info at:
In India, a very high prevalence of tobacco use is one of the major challenges to the public health and wellbeing of our citizens. A report by Government of India (GOI) (2004) estimates that nearly 9 lakh people die every year in our country due to tobacco related diseases. In the year 2004, total economic cost of only three major groups of diseases caused by tobacco was estimated to be $ 1.7 billion in India which was 16\% higher than the total excise collected from all tobacco products in the year 2003-04.
Recognizing this reality the Indian Parliament enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA). Besides the national legislation, India has signed and ratified the WHOs Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first and the most widely ratified global public health treaty initiated by the WHO, which mandates strong and effective tobacco control measures for implementation of the treaty obligations.
It is in this context that we are surprised and extremely concerned to learn that the Indian Tobacco Board, an undertaking of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, GOI is one of the major sponsor and hospitality partner for the proposed Global Tobacco Networking Forum (GTNF www.gtnf-2010.com ), which is completely a tobacco industries event planned to promote interests of the tobacco industry. This tobacco industry networking, deal-making, socializing, touring event is being hosted in Bangalore, India during 4-8 October 2010. GTNF is set to discuss not only how the scope and reach of tobacco industry can be expanded in India and world over but also how the existing international and national policies and legislations on tobacco control can be circumvented.
In this regard, we would also like to bring to your notice that the Article 5.3 of the FCTC requires the member country to protect all public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. This invariably mean that any party to the treaty should not accept, support or endorse partnerships with tobacco industry or with any entity/person that may further the interest of tobacco industry and should not grant incentives, privileges to the tobacco industry in establishing or run or promote their business in the country. The organizers are also likely to advertise and promote tobacco products in violation of the express provisions under section 5 of the COTPA.
Besides, the organizers have made GTNF a private and close event, thereby denying public access to what transpires in the conference. Whereas, Article 12 of the FCTC and the guidelines on Article 5.3 require that the governments should ensure that all operations and activities of the tobacco industry are transparent without prejudice to trade secrets or confidential information protected by law.
We consider that the support provided by the tobacco board to the GTNF is a flagrant violation of the obligations of the GOI under the FCTC and COTPA. Besides, the financial support by Indian Tobacco Board to GTNF 2010 amounts to a gross violation of this undertaking and is a misuse of the tax payers money especially when the GTNF is a tobacco industry promotional event and is in complete contravention of the tobacco control objectives of the Government of India.
Therefore, in the interest of public health and larger public interest we request your kind office that:
1. The Tobacco Board withdraws all kind of support extended or promised to the GTNF;
2. No Government representatives participates in the GTNF in any capacity; and
3. The Government asks the organizers of GTNF to call off the event in India
We look up to your unmatched leadership in extending support and honoring Indias commitment under FCTC and effectively advancing tobacco control to protect and avert million tobacco related deaths in the country.
With warm regards,