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Report reveals rising Tobacco Industry Interference in policy-making in South Africa

Publish Date:

November 21, 2023

Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 Nov 2023 – A new report reveals that the South African government has failed to adequately guard against interference from the tobacco industry in policy-making, as stipulated under Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The 2023 Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report for South Africa indicates a worrying increase in tobacco industry influence, with the country’s score dropping by three points since 2021. The report was launched by the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) in Pretoria on Thursday.

Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), says, “The bottom line for tobacco companies is profit. Unfortunately, these profits often come at the expense of human lives. To maintain their revenue streams, these companies need more people addicted to nicotine and more individuals continuing to smoke.”

The annual review of the index evaluates how effectively governments are safeguarding public health policies from the influence of tobacco companies. Key findings of the report indicate that:

  • South Africa’s score in the Index has declined from 61 in 2021 to 64 in 2023.

  • Delays in policy reforms continue to benefit tobacco companies, including a four-and-a-half-year delay in passing the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, 2022.  Tobacco and e-cigarette companies have benefited from the non-regulation of e-cigarettes.

  • Tobacco companies increasingly target non-health sectors of government, underscoring the need to raise awareness about industry interference across all government branches.

  • Instead of partnering directly with the government, tobacco companies often sponsor organisations that work closely with government institutions.

  • Unnecessary interactions between tobacco companies and government officials are on the rise.

  • South Africa continues to perform poorly in implementing Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, lacking a code of conduct for government officials’ interactions with tobacco companies, transparency requirements, and evidence of non-health departments’ awareness of tobacco industry interference.

“The tobacco industry remains the greatest barrier to implementing effective tobacco control policies,” Dr. Nyatsanza adds. “Without strong action from the government, the industry will continue to use its economic power to challenge, delay, and dilute efforts aimed at reducing tobacco consumption.”

The report recommends fast-tracking the new Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill [B33-2022], banning all forms of contributions from the tobacco industry, developing a comprehensive awareness campaign for government officials on tobacco industry interference tactics, and ensuring transparency in all interactions between the tobacco industry and the government.

These measures are fully supported by the members of Protect our Next, including South Africa’s leading healthcare and community Non-Profit organisations which play a crucial role in this battle against tobacco industry interference. Partners include NCAS, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) and The Africa Centre For Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM). “Our mission aligns with the objectives laid out in the report,” says Nyatsanza. “Protect our Next aims to foster a tobacco-free generation by actively campaigning against tobacco industry marketing tactics, and advocating for robust tobacco control policies including passing the Tobacco Control Bill.”

Dr. Nyatsanza concludes, “The responsibility to protect citizens from tobacco industry interference lies with the entire government, not just a single department.”

The S.A Tobacco Industry Interference Index is available HERE.

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