Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Report: global treaty blocked by big tobacco

Yet another report accuses Big Tobacco of obstructive behaviour in face of tobacco restrictions laid down by the WHO FCTC (World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control). This is because it is preparing legal action (in Uruguay in this case), and seeking influence in others.

The FCTC is the first international treaty designed by the World Health Organisation. Among other things it seeks to compel its member organisations to general workplace smoking bans that should extend to 'other public spaces, as appropriate' (Article 8), the provision of smoking cessation facilities (Article 14) and the exclusion of tobacco interests from any policy discussions involving public health (Article 5.3). All this is a lot to demand of member states, because they all have social and economic ramifications, not to speak of their obligations to legislate in the national interest, rather than on the whim of unelected global authorities: however such considerations are less important to the WHO than keeping big tobacco under control.

All this is quite bizarre. Tobacco control is arguably a low priority for many people who are more exposed to communicable diseases than we are in much of the West, or whose income depends on tobacco, or on other people using it. These things are more critical in areas of the world without social security.

The World Health Organisation behaves as if tobacco were really a major health threat to most people. But the tobacco industry is still a legitimate industry and if its legal trading rights are threatened it will think like a company and go to court. And in truth, although the World Health Organisation is a global power it is not economically neutral but promotes interests that compete with tobacco: pharmaceutical interests. Article 14 envisages pharmaceutical alternatives to nicotine being made available and affordable with the assistance of the FCTC. What else do you do with a competitor who is trying to eliminate you from the field, but go to court?

Before I'm accused of being a tobacco apologist, I'll say this. Tobacco is now the world bogeyman, and I do believe in sane tobacco control. I don't mind a few health warnings here and there, and properly enforced age verification. But I do mind being taken for an idiot. The biggest global rival to big tobacco is big Pharma. These people have done a lot of good (like many people, I owe them my life at least two or three times over), but they are essentially huge mega corporations competing with each other. Every so often they do things that really damage their reputations, such as allowing Guatemalan prisoners to be infected with STDs (or even, to take it to absolute extremes, inventing Zyklon B) . But officially we are supposed to trust them.

That's why they are dangerous, and actually far more dangerous than tobacco, because we expect good from their products. This link alleges that what happened 64 years ago in Guatemala is 'just one crime in a long history of medical–government collusion to use humans as guinea pigs'. The public is getting a little more sceptical and increasingly reluctant to take flu jabs. They can see the repeated warnings that turn out to be an anti-climax. This piece on bird flu alleges that key advisers to the WHO on vaccines are also involved in contracts with major pharmaceutical companies. With so much dirt in its own back yard, why is the World Health Organisation making such a fuss about smoking?

How do they expect us to believe the battle between WHO and tobacco represents a clear case of 'health versus wealth' when the personal fortunes of hangers-on to the WHO are at stake, exceeding by thousands the incomes of people whose livelihoods are disrupted by smoking restrictions?

6 comments:

TheBigYin said...

Another excellent post Belinda which points out abusurdities and this obsession by self interest groups about something that the masses enjoy, tobacco.

Yet another useless report is trotted out and salivated over by the mass media while real issues are put on the side burner.

I mean we here in the 'decadent' west are living longer and healthier than so called third world countries yet nobody asks why? Well we don't have famine or pestulance, we don't have civil wars anymore so don't kill each our over who should rule us. We don't have floods that bring disease amongst us that ruins our ability to feed our population. In fact, as one prime minister once said WE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD!

So what is it about this obsession with tobacco,well it's in the words tobacco CONTROL! If 'they' can't control it then they don't want to know.

Kin_Free said...

I tried to post a comment on this story earlier today but no show, so I will post it here instead. I have since posted another comment linking your blog (and a piece of my mind) but I doubt that will see light of day either.

Excellent blog by the way Belinda!

***
I too have noticed that 'Corporate Accountability International' (CAI) have several 'corporate abuse campaigns' going and some are worthy of note BUT none of them relate to probably the biggest corporate abuser today ... the pharmaceutical industry!

CAI align themselves with the WHO and they in turn align themselves with big pharma. http://www.who.int/inf-pr-1999/en/pr99-04.html

Are CAI also part of the big pharma family and mutual back scratching society? Are CAI being exploited by these corporate behemoths along with the WHO to enhance pharma profits and protect other powerful corporate polluting industries? The tobacco industry is a convenient 'whipping boy' that diverts attention away from the corporate crimes of polluting industry etc!

People choose to smoke or not to smoke based on comprehensive information that is now widely available. NO ONE has the right or authority to use force, violence, discrimination or any other debase method to impose their flawed values on others! Big Tobacco does NOT force people to smoke unlike many other polluting corporations where individual choice is often not available.

If only the tobacco companies WERE fighting these forces of evil I would be very happy BUT Big tobacco are doing very well as it stands- have you seen their share prices lately? They do not need to 'rock the boat'. Your fear of big tobacco influence is, in the main, a myth!

No, they are not your real enemy! Your enemy is THE PEOPLE - ordinary people, all over the world who value their freedom. Ordinary people who have seen beyond the propaganda and don't like what they see. Ordinary people who, it seems are far more informed than some blinkered lobby groups with fancy names that give the impression they represent the people. The voice of ordinary people can be heard (read) here;

http://fightingback.homestead.com/

For the record I have nothing to do with ANY corporate entity, including big tobacco.

Belinda said...

'Big Tobacco does NOT force people to smoke unlike many other polluting corporations where individual choice is often not available.'

(including recipients of medical treatment in some cases!)

Thanks, Kin-Free:

Rick S said...

"Today, the treaty protects more than 87 percent of the world’s population."

From what, exactly?

Anonymous said...

From themselves Rick, well, that's what they believe. It's a good mechanism for the fat controllers.

TBY
can't be bothered signing in to Blogger.)

jredheadgirl said...

"All this is a lot to demand of member states, because they all have social and economic ramifications, not to speak of their obligations to legislate in the national interest, rather than on the whim of unelected global authorities: however such considerations are less important to the WHO than keeping big tobacco under control."

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Excellent point and excellent post Belinda. TC does not recognize the sovereignty of nation states; that's precisely why they are so dangerous in my view.

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"No, they are not your real enemy! Your enemy is THE PEOPLE - ordinary people, all over the world who value their freedom. "

Yep. You are spot on Kin_Free.