Tobacco Industry Fingerprints on Delaying Implementation of Pictorial Health Warnings in the Western Pacific

Document Type: Case series

Authors

1 Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Bangkok, Thailand.

2 Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, Hong Kong.

Abstract

Objective: This case series describes tobacco industry tactics and strategies used to interfere, derail, delay, and weaken the development of effective health warning regulations in Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Methods: A historical review of official reports, news articles, and gray literature was undertaken to identify tobacco industry tactics and strategies to hamper government efforts in implementing stronger pictorial health warning regulations in four Asian jurisdictions (Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the Philippines). Results: Nineteen countries/jurisdictions in the WHO Western Pacific region currently require pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs, including some of the world’s largest, in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 11 Guidelines. In the four jurisdictions examined, tobacco industry interference consisted of lobbying and misinformation of high-level government officers and policy-makers, distributing industry-friendly legislative drafts, taking government to court, challenging government timelines for law implementation, and mobilizing third parties. Strong political leadership and strategic advocacy enabled governments to successfully overcome this industry interference. Conclusion: The tobacco industry uses similar tactics in different jurisdictions to derail, delay, and weaken the implementation of effective health warning policies. Identifying and learning from international experiences can help anticipate and defeat such challenges.

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