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Media to support exposing tobacco industry interferences in Public Health Policies-CSOs

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged the media to support in exposing tobacco industry interferences in public health policies, and to curb the negative health consequences of tobacco consumption.
They said the media could assist in the fight by avoiding the manipulation of the industry, which staged media events to distract tobacco control, while using such outlets to promote positions favourable to them.
The CSOs made the call at a strategic stakeholder engagement organised by the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD-Ghana), to build their capacity on tobacco industry interference in public health policies.
The meeting, which was supported by Vital Strategies, was also aimed at introducing the CSOs to an ongoing six months (July-December 2023) ‘STOP Tobacco Interference Project’ and to call for their support to monitor the implementation of the Excise Duty Amendment Act to avoid industry interferences.
The Act was passed by Parliament and assented to by the President this year, 2023, to help reduce the consumption of health harming products such as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), tobacco and alcohol and to raise tax revenue for the government.
The project is dubbed: “Debunking and Exposing the Tobacco Industry Interference in the Passage of the Excise Reform Tax in Ghana.”

Mr Labram M. Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD-Ghana in a presentation, took the participants through some of the interference strategies by the tobacco industry.
He said the three health harming industries, namely tobacco, alcohol and SSBs used similar interference strategies to avoid regulation and to remain in business, stating that “These strategies are passed down from global transnational giants to regional and national industry actors.”

Mr Musah mentioned some of the strategies by the industry as establishing inappropriate relationships with policy and decision makers, lobbying by making deals and influencing political processes.
Others were intimidation by using legal and economic power as a means of harassing and frightening opponents who supported tobacco control, such as harassment of tobacco control professionals.
“They also buy friends and social respectability from arts, sports, humanitarian and cultural groups while using corporate social responsibility to promote voluntary measures as an effective way to address tobacco control and create an illusion of being ‘changed’ company, while establishing partnerships with health interest,” the Executive Director stated.
Mr Musah said the industry further fund and promote false scientific studies in the universities to create doubt about evidence of health effects of tobacco use and support scientists to produce and disseminate false
“scientific” findings in their favour.
He said another strategy used by SSBs industries was “issue framing” that portrayed consumption as a matter of personal choice and individual responsibility, which he stated: “This is wrong. Industry and government must take full responsibility.”

The Executive Director urged the CSOs to be vigilant and monitor the tobacco industry and act by obtaining and using evidence strategically, using ‘champions’ to tell the truth about tobacco use, applying lessons from international experiences, exposing the myths and refuting the industry’s arguments.
The tobacco industry interferences may not look obvious, but with vigilance it was possible to collectively detect and counteract to protect public health, he stated.

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