Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Body

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Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Body

Featured, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, TerraViva United Nations UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS) – The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO). A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of the Geneva-based UN agency to expel tobacco companies from its subsidiary membership. “Tobacco companies victimize farmers and other workers through practices including unfair pricing strategies, abusive contracts and child labour. They have no place in a UN agency concerned with fair labour practices and human rights,” says the coalition. The Governing Body – which will hold its upcoming 331st sessions beginning October 26 through November 9 —is expected to decide whether to sever tobacco companies from its partnership with ILO. “If the ILO is to live up to its promise of promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities and enhancing social protection, the decision should be an easy one: the Governing Body must prohibit all members of the tobacco industry from participation in the ILO,” says the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). Asked whether the world’s poorer nations — where “big tobacco” still has a heavy presence — are losing the battle in the war against smoking, Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns at CTFK, told IPS that for tobacco companies, “low- and middle-income countries represent the new frontier for a deadly industry”. Tobacco companies, he pointed out, are increasingly targeting low- and middle-income countries that often lack the regulations and resources to protect themselves against manipulative industry practices. “Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries and if current trends continue, they will account for 80 percent of the world’s tobacco-related deaths by 2030,” said Hurley. Any action taken by the ILO against tobacco companies would bring the agency in line with the Geneva-based World Health Organization’s (WHO) international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Last month, the UN Global Compact in New York also took action to cut ties with tobacco companies, CTFK said. Asked about the Global Compact, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters last week companies that are part of the Global Compact have to report on the activities they carry out. If there are concerns about different transactions by those companies, he pointed out, “that can affect their membership in the Compact as well as the sort of nature of their participation with the Global Compact”. And so the Global Compact will need to be in dialogue with all the various companies, (including tobacco-related companies), in terms of what they’re doing and in terms of “socially responsible business practices”, he added. The letter, addressed to members of the Governing Body, says tobacco companies use membership in respected organizations like the ILO to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens when in fact they are the root cause of a global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century. Tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, to mislead the public about the health risks of their products and to attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives, the letter added. “Tobacco companies that spread death and disease across the globe should have no place in a UN agency, or any responsible organization”, the letter adds. The signatories to the letter include the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Voluntary Health Association of India, Action on Smoking and Health and Corporate Accountability International, the African Tobacco Control Alliance, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, the Austrian Council on Smoking and Health, the Dutch Alliance for Smoke-Free Society and the French Alliance Against Tobacco, among others. Hurley told IPS “the good news is we know how to reduce tobacco use”. The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligates its 181 signatory Parties to implement proven, effective measures in their countries, such as increasing tobacco taxes, placing graphic, picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, and banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. And countries around the world, including those that are low- and middle-income, are taking bold action to implement these life-saving policies, he added. This includes Nepal, where graphic health warnings cover 90 percent of tobacco packs – the biggest in
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On October 19, 2017
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