CHENNAI: With ‘World No Tobacco Day’ around the corner, anti-tobacco activists are gearing up to create awareness on bringing into force Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), which deals with public health policies and tobacco control. In line with this year’s theme of ‘Stop illicit trade of tobacco products’, the article reads, ‘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.’
Though the Article was ratified by India in 2005, rampant violations still exist, claimed activists. “Prominent industries claim that they have diversified into other products. Diversification means the majority profit should be from the other products. But this is not the case with industries like ITC, where the majority profit comes from tobacco,” said Dr E Vidhubala, associate professor, Cancer Institute, speaking to mediapersons.
According to their guidelines to implement Article 5.3, interaction with tobacco industries has to be avoided and partnership with the industry has to be rejected. “The implementation needs to be done as a collaborative effort of different departments — labour, agriculture, trade, income tax, education and youth welfare — apart from the public health department,” she said. Sponsorship events and brands for children by tobacco majors, can be banned as it is in conflict with Article 5.3, said Cyril Alexander, National Convener of National Forum for Tobacco Eradication (NFTE). Also, according to a Government Order 242 of the Tamil Nadu Education Department, students and faculty are restricted from participating in events, sponsorship and scholarships that promote any tobacco company. This GO, he said, was passed after instances like spell bee competitions sponsored by a notebook brand that is owned by a tobacco major, and a biscuit brand’s (promoted by a tobacco major) talent competition for children.
Countries like America have attempted to frame their policies in line with tobacco control, pointed out Pranay Lal. Technical Advisor, The Union South-East Asia Office. “Even developing countries like Philippines, Brazil and war-effected Estonia are framing Article 5.3 compliant policies. Why not India? he questioned.