A NEW study on how the tobacco industry influences public health policy showed the Philippines among the top three countries where tobacco interference is highest.
The results of the first Tobacco Industry Interference Index conducted by the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) showed the Philippines among the three countries in the region where the industry exercise a great influence in public health policy.
This led the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), an advocacy group, to ask for the full implementation of a code of conduct for government officials.
The report, released last week, identified the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia as having the highest degree of tobacco industry interference in the region.
Emer Rojas, NVAP president, said a joint memorandum circular signed by the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission in 2010, should be fully implemented to prevent cigarette makers from exercising undue influence in public health policy.
“This circular should be implemented in all levels of the bureaucracy to stop the tobacco industry from meddling with government affairs. Cigarette manufacturers will never have regard on people’s health as its business interests always runs counter to public health,” said Rojas.
The circular enjoins public officials to interact with the industry “only when strictly necessary for the latter’s effective regulation, supervision or control.” It also mandated transparency to be observed during such transactions to avoid public perception of misconduct on the part of public servants.
Besides the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, the other Asean nations with the highest tobacco industry interference level were Brunei, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The SEATCA report cited the Philippines as the highest when it comes to government officials having “unnecessary interactions” with cigarette makers.
Rojas said this unnecessary interaction between government and the tobacco industry is a major reason why tobacco control in the country is moving slow compared to other Asean members.
“It took Congress three decades to amend the sin tax law and impose higher levies on tobacco. When you are lobbying for the protection of public health against a giant like the tobacco industry, it is disheartening to see when some of our beloved legislators side with the industry instead of fighting for public health. This CSC-DOH code of conduct for public officials and employees should be observed at all levels of government,” lamented Rojas, a cancer survivor and a former smoker.
The CSC said, violation of the joint memorandum, would result in dismissal from public service for a public servant.
The commission however admitted that four years after the JMC was signed, it had not received complaints against public servants suspected of dealing with the tobacco industry.