Is Tobacco Company Seriously Concerned About Lungs
TIME-TO-PONDER: Is Tobacco Company Seriously Concerned About People's Lungs In Pakistan?
By Bobby Ramakant
Will Pakistan Tobacco Company protect people's lungs by building environment parks alone? Nine out of ten lung cancers are attributed to tobacco use, says Pakistan's noted expert Prof Javaid Khan. Time to seriously ponder and act on to make effective tobacco control a reality.
A colour newspaper advertisement (see below) was published in Pakistan's newspapers to announce the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Ghourghushti Environment Park in Attock district by collaborative efforts of Pakistan Tobacco Company and Government of Pakistan on 8 April 2007. Prime Minister Mr Shaukat Aziz laid the stone.
Pakistan is one of the 146 countries that have ratified the global tobacco treaty and in doing so has taken a great step forward in protecting the health and lives of its citizens from the tobacco epidemic. Formally known as the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the treaty aims to reverse the tobacco epidemic by changing the way tobacco corporations operate around the world.
"On one hand the government of Pakistan ratified FCTC and committed itself to comprehensive tobacco control, yet they are accepting money from the tobacco industry to create a public park at Attock District (NWFP)" said Senior Chest Physician and noted tobacco control advocate Prof (Dr) Javaid Khan from Aga Khan University. He further said that "By such collaboration, tobacco industry is trying to tell the public that they are doing public welfare for the country. Previously they also claimed that they have made mobile dispensaries for poor patient and planted million of trees in the country to help the environment. Our government should not accept money from the tobacco industry as this money is tainted with the blood of those who have died from tobacco related diseases".
If tobacco industry is seriously interested in public welfare, the first step it can take on its own is to reduce the mountainous burden of diseases, disabilities and deaths attributed to tobacco use. By building environment parks for people's lungs and hoping people will believe that they are concerned about their lungs, tobacco industry must be kidding! People of Pakistan are smart enough to understand that the single largest preventable cause of lung cancer is tobacco.
"Unfortunately, tobacco corporations like British American Tobacco, Philip Morris/Altria and their subsidiaries (Pakistan Tobacco Company is the subsidiary of BAT) have attempted to interfere with the implementation and enforcement of the global tobacco treaty in countries around the world. These corporations use their tremendous political influence to weaken, delay and defeat tobacco control legislation around the world." said Kathryn Mulvey, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability International (www.stopcorporateabuse.org ).
Corporate Accountability International has been urging governments to be attentive to tobacco industry interference in public health policy, said Kathryn Mulvey. BAT and Philip Morris/Altria spend millions annually in an attempt to brand themselves as "socially responsible" corporations. This allows them to hide behind glossy image make-overs while continuing to promote tobacco addiction to children and adults around the world.
"Pakistan Tobacco Company sought to curry public favor through a public-private partnership to build the Ghourgushti Environment Park in Pakistan's Attock district. Pakistan's Prime Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz accepted the tobacco corporation's invitation to lay the foundation stone at the Park's ground-breaking. This behavior is one clear example of tobacco corporations seeking to buy favor with the public and with elected officials" said Mulvey.
All around the world, people are rejecting Big Tobacco's attempts to interfere with health policy. And people of Pakistan are no exception. Let us hope that Government of Pakistan will dissociate itself from this 'environment park' venture with Pakistan Tobacco Company to begin with and further strengthen its commitment to global tobacco treaty.
(The author is a senior health and development journalist writing for newspapers in Asia and Africa. He is a member of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) and can be reached at: bobbyramakant @ yahoo.com)