"Stop tobacco industry interference"
– WHO Kobe Centre marked World No Tobacco Day with an open forum
31 May 2012 | KOBE - WHO Kobe Centre held an open forum “Stop tobacco industry interference” in commemoration of World No Tobacco Day 2012 on 31 May in Kobe.
More than 60 participants came from academia, local governments and civil society groups to exchange their views and share ideas on tobacco industry interference on tobacco control policy in Japan.
The two-hour forum highlighted tobacco industry tactics to undermine tobacco control efforts, especially enforcement of smoke-free environments since Kanagawa and, this year, Hyogo adopted prefectural legislation to prevent public exposure to second-hand smoke.
Since the adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004, Japan has struggled between the existing tobacco business related laws for the tobacco market and tobacco control plans to protect public health. Dr Yumiko Mochizuki, Division Chief of Tobacco Policy Research at the National Cancer Centre pointed out lack of Japan’s efforts in implementing measures on effective tobacco control policy based on the WHO FCTC and its guidelines and alerted that this has resulted in endangering public health and that public awareness should be raised for tobacco control policy to save lives.
Ms Mina Kashiwabara, Consultant at WHO Kobe Centre, presented on the Japanese tobacco industry’s intensive promotion of smoking manners and its impact on tobacco control policy. She emphasized that the industry’s smoking manners strategies have been used to avert the public attention from health impacts of smoking and to develop partnership with local governments to weaken tobacco control policy.
Kanagawa, the first prefecture to implement a local ordinance to regulate smoking in indoor public places in 2009, has also suffered from industry interference when developing the legislation. Mr Masatoshi Sekiguchi, a former member of the Kanagawa Prefecture Assembly shared a real life story of a tobacco company’s manipulation of public opinion – the tobacco company urged its employees to join Kanagawa’s opinion poll carried out in the beginning of the legislation to vote against regulating indoor public smoking.
Following the presentations, a vibrant discussion led by Dr Kohei Adachi, Vice President of Hyogo Prefecture Medical Association took place. Key issues, especially those encountered by the two prefectures, as well as broader trends in Japan of tobacco industry marketing and tactics hindering the implementation of tobacco control policy were discussed.
The forum ended with the closing remarks delivered by Mr Alex Ross, Director of WHO Kobe Centre. He emphasized the importance of full compliance to the WHO FCTC to protect public, and the commitment of WHO to promote health through stronger tobacco control measures.