Technical Paper 2:
Tobacco Control in Australia: making smoking history
Keeping tobacco control on the agenda
Ensure greater awareness that profiting from the sale of tobacco products is incompatible with principles of corporate social responsibility.
A study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that young adults with negative attitudes about the tobacco industry and who supported action against the tobacco industry were one-third as likely to be smokers as those who did not support action against the tobacco industry. Among current smokers, those who had a negative attitude towards the tobacco industry were over four times more likely to plan to quit smoking than smokers who did not support action against the tobacco industry.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
At its third session in November 2008, the Conference of the Parties to the FCTC adopted guidelines for implementation of Article 13 of the FCTC which make clear that corporate social responsibility activities by tobacco companies should be regarded as a form of promotion:
Corporate social responsibility
25. It is increasingly common for tobacco companies to seek to portray themselves as good corporate citizens by making contributions to deserving causes or otherwise promoting “socially responsible” elements of their business practices.
26. Some tobacco companies make financial or in-kind contributions to organizations, such as community, health, welfare or environmental organizations, either directly or through other entities. Such contributions fall within the definition of tobacco sponsorship in Article 1(g) and should be prohibited as part of a comprehensive ban, because the aim, effect or likely effect of such a contribution is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.
27. Tobacco companies may also seek to engage in “socially responsible” business practices (such as good employee-employer relations or environmental stewardship), which do not involve contributions to other parties. Promotion to the public of such otherwise commendable activities should be prohibited, as their aim, effect or likely effect is to promote a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly. Public dissemination of such information should be prohibited, except for purposes of required corporate reporting (such as annual reports) or necessary business administration (e.g. for recruitment purposes and communications with suppliers).
The guidelines continue:
The Parties should ban contributions from tobacco companies to any other entity for “socially responsible causes”, as this is a form of sponsorship. Publicity given to “socially responsible” business practices of the tobacco industry should be banned, as it constitutes advertising and promotion.
The Conference of Parties also adopted guidelines to assist parties with implementation of Article 5.3 of the Convention on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry (decision FCTC/COP3(7)). The guidelines for Article 5.3 state:
‘11. The broad array of strategies and tactics used by the tobacco industry to interfere with the setting and implementing of tobacco control measures, such as those that Parties to the Convention are required to implement, is documented by a vast body of evidence.
The measures recommended in these guidelines aim at protecting against interference not only by the tobacco industry but also, as appropriate, by organizations and individuals that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry.’
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They go on to state:
17. The following important activities are recommended for addressing tobacco industry interference in public health policies:
(1) Raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about tobacco industry interference with Parties’ tobacco control policies.
(2) Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur.
(3) Reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry.
(4) Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.
(5) Require that information provided by the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate.
(6) Denormalize and, to the extent possible, regulate activities described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as “corporate social responsibility”.
(7) Do not give preferential treatment to the tobacco industry.
(8) Treat State-owned tobacco industry in the same way as any other tobacco industry.
The guidelines include numerous specific recommendations as to how governments may go about each of the above strategies.
The Finance Minister of Norway, Kristin Halvorsen, has presented a white paper to parliament on her review of the guidelines for government investments. The government wants to introduce measures such as excluding tobacco-industry investments, watching companies in an ethical grey zone more closely, and studying ways of making climate change a factor in investment decisions. The report outlined the majority government's political intentions, but didn't include specific rules or say when they would be imposed. Source: Norway aims to ban tobacco from its investment portfolio, The Wall Street Journal, 5 April 2009, http://tinyurl.com/djwpsk.