Thursday, 22 March 2012

More David v Goliath rhetoric from the WHO at Singapore Conference

Bloomberg has pledged $220 million to fight tobacco in poor countries (how would you spend so much money?).

Judith Mackay is quoted:
Dr Judith Mackay, one of the authors of the World Lung Foundation Tobacco Atlas and a well-known anti-tobacco campaigner, said it showed "the whole drive from the high income to the low-income countries", adding that the tobacco companies "are now challenging legislation from Scotland to Australia to Iran to Latin America. This is one of the biggest developments we have seen and one of the most sinister. The WHO has said it has got lawyers and will help. This is a form of harassment and intimidation of other countries that might face challenges."  [emphasis added] 
Legal challenges to disadvantageous legislation are intimidation? Yes, there are situations where a company can intimidate a country by using legal action. But the fact of legal action is not in itself an act of intimidation. Mackay is attempting to pre-judge the issue (tobacco = wrong, civil society = right). The whole point of legal action is to have the justice system adjudicate on a case, not to confirm the prejudice of one side.

A press release gives us this:

 Full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) – particularly provisions on countering tobacco industry influence – is necessary to protect people from the harms of tobacco use.

What happened to all the other global issues? Why is the WHO stuck on tobacco? My opinion is that it is the result of corporate pressure mounting to avoid action on industry for environmental contamination, by blaming people for their own ill health. This is the kind of intimidation by big companies that I believe is happening (see paragraph on 'Silent Science' here).

The Tobacco Control Blog carries an upbeat coverage of the Conference claiming:
 I got the real sense that tobacco industry legal threats are no longer as intimidating to governments – this will surely have a knock on effect to other countries once these court challenges are successfully resolved.
The Framework Convention Alliance might not be so sanguine, unless they have been jollied along by proceedings at the Conference.

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