Ending corporate giving to halt tobacco industry interference in the ASEAN region
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Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Thailand
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A96
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Background and challenges to implementation:
As the ASEAN region becomes more aware of the deadly effects of tobacco and governments step-up regulation of the industry, tobacco companies are resorting to more below‐the‐line tactics to promote their corporate name to reach consumers. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities is one of the key tactics used by the tobacco industry (TI) to enhance its image in the public and governments' eyes. None of the governments in the ASEAN region require the TI to declare their expenditure on CSR activities, sponsorship, retailer incentives and lobbying. Hence the actual amount the companies spend on these activities is not quantified. FCTC Article 5.3 requires such disclosure. Three countries in the ASEAN region (Myanmar, Lao PDR and Thailand) have banned CSR activities.

Intervention or response:
Banning the publicity of CSR activities alone is insufficient to restrict the industry as experienced by Vietnam. The tobacco industry always finds a way to promote itself in the media and online. In Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, recipients of the tobacco industry grants, such as retailers associations and farmers groups are mobilized to fight tobacco control measures. The tobacco companies spend extensively on CSR in Indonesia and the Philippines and both countries continue to face intense opposition to tobacco control such as banning tobacco advertising.

Results and lessons learnt:
In several countries the TI is latching on to the SDG Goals and talking-up “sustainable agriculture”, “sustainable communities” and “sustainable environment”. However the UNDP and ECOSOC have clear policies implementing Article 5.3 and ensuring their policies are protected from tobacco industry interference.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Tobacco related CSR activities should be banned. Government officials and UN agencies must rejects grants from and partnerships with the tobacco industry and publicise their official position on non-partnership with the industry.

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