West's tobacco industry interfering in African countries policies?
A new report has indicated that tobacco industry is exploiting opportunities provided by the COVID-19 pandemic, to engage with government bodies and capitalized on the vulnerability of several African countries facing a shortage of resources.
The Africa Regional Tobacco Industry Interference Index released Wednesday by the Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) stated that the industry greatly influenced government policies in Nigeria, Zambia, and Tanzania.
Of the 14 countries which the report focused on, Zambia and Tanzania topped the list with the highest level of tobacco industry interference in almost all indicators.
"Despite countries putting procedures in place to guide officials to report all meetings with the tobacco industry, a lack of transparency which facilitated deals with the tobacco industry persisted, and was most significant in Zambia, Senegal, Mozambique, and Cote d'Ivoire," the report stated.
"The tobacco industry, in at least five countries, engaged in high levels of unnecessary interactions with governments. These took the form of trade and partnerships, enforcement of laws, social activities and economic development agenda."
Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) seeks to protect tobacco control policies from being influenced by the tobacco industry. It obliges Parties "to protect their public health policies related to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry."
The ATCA report shows a low level of tobacco industry in policy development in Kenya and Uganda. Countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia experienced the most industry interference.
In Nigeria, for instance, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment received a tobacco industry proposal on the need for a 'Policy on Conventional Tobacco and Non-Combusted Alternatives to Tobacco Smoking.' Also, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, a government agency, involved the tobacco industry in consultations and drafting of policies on tobacco control.
According to the WHO, there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests and public health policy interests.