New companies act in India and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by tobacco industry-another challenge for tobacco control in India
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Directorate of Health Service, India
The Union SEA Office, Tobacco Control & NCD, India
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A662
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (GoI) in 2013 presented a legislation called the New Companies Act 2013, which mandated every company to spend minimum of two percent of their annual profits on development agenda. Provisions of this Act were contrary to existing Indian tobacco control legislation and Article 5.3 of WHO FCTC. Tobacco companies continue to advertise by using surrogate products and brand names through CSR and pose their fair image among public and policy makers. India's three leading cigarette companies spent in excess of 677 crore in 2015-16. None of the company's CSR has a mandate to treat and rehabilitate their customers, who face serious health consequences because of tobacco use.

Intervention or response:
Tobacco control advocates made representation to GoI to exclude tobacco industry from CSR ambit to stop their priviledges to carry out indirect advertisements. A Chennai based tobacco control activist group "TNPFTC" organised online signature campaign and filed a PIL in Hon'ble high court. Court issued an order to form an inter-government communications to look into the matter.

Results and lessons learnt:
On May 16th, 2016, the Ministry issued a circular clarifying that companies, while undertaking CSR activities, shall not contravene any other prevailing laws of land including COTPA 2003. Incidences of direct advertisement and sponsorship are now decreased. But this is only a half battle won. Tobacco companies continue to support government-sponsored schemes and civil societies in the name of development.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Continued advertisements by tobacco companies under the garb of New Company Act is reversing the Government´s efforts to denormalize the tobacco use. This is a time to put a blanket ban on the CSR activities by tobacco companies. A central Health Promotion Funds pool should be created with mandatory collection of funds from tobacco companies, so that the same could be utilized for treatment and rehabilitation of tobacco victims.

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