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Tobacco Institute Seeks Farmer, Industry Representation in COP 7

Tobacco Institute Seeks Farmer, Industry Representation in COP 7

Institute says anti-tobacco lobbying has led to drop in demand for locally grown crop, impacting livelihood of Indian farmers.

The Tobacco Institute of India (TII), which represents the country’s farmers, manufacturers, exporters and ancillaries of cigarette segment of the tobacco industry, has requested the Indian government to allow tobacco farmers and companies to be represented in the forthcoming World Health Organization’s FCTC Conference of Parties (COP 7).

COP 7 is an anti-tobacco conference that reviews implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. The conference will be attended by delegates from 180 countries along with observers and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO). It is the presence of NGOs in COP 7 and exclusion of stakeholders in the tobacco industry which has concerned TII.

“We are concerned that, at the behest of vested interests, NGOs and anti-tobacco activists in India, through their relentless and biased campaign, are influencing the government’s tobacco control policy and promoting extreme regulations that are already hurting tobacco farmers and the legal industry in the country, causing widespread growth of illegal trade in cigarettes”, Syed Mahmood Ahmad, director of TII said.

According to Ahmad, the growth of illegal cigarettes and the consequent sharp decline in the legal industry has led to the drop in demand for locally grown tobacco, and is having a devastating impact on Indian tobacco farmers and their livelihood. TII has called upon the Guidance Note of the United Nations Secretary General on Democracy to emphasise that a democratic process is fundamental to all policy making, both at an international and at the national level, whereby the tobacco industry as a whole needs to be represented.

“We are apprehensive that NGOs, who are allowed access to the FCTC COP 7, will carry a strong voice during the Conference and attempt to impose their biased agenda on the meeting and may even succeed in ensuring adoption of excessive anti-farmer proposals by the Parties to the Conference causing further distress to tobacco farmers in the country”, he added.

Ahmad is of the opinion that it is important that policy development in the tobacco industry should not be left to the tobacco control activists and NGOs alone and interests of farmers and the legitimate rights of other constituents of the tobacco industry needs to be considered during policy formulation. However, it is still unclear how the farmers and the tobacco manufacturers will be represented in case the Indian government allows their participation in the conference. Previously, TII, , whose members account for more than 98 per cent of the country’s domestic sales of duty paid cigarettes, had stated that the tobacco control policies appear to be directed by NGOs and anti-tobacco activists who are funded by overseas vested interests.

A statement from the TII said that the FCTC itself, through its Guiding Principles, upholds and promotes transparency, and participation of all constituents and stakeholders in its procedures. The Preamble to the FCTC recognizes the need to consider the livelihood and economic interests of tobacco growers and workers in implementing its provisions and be mindful of the social and economic difficulties that tobacco control programmes may engender in the medium and long term in some developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The COP 7 Meeting, which is held every two years, is being hosted by India in Noida near the country’s capital, between November 7-12 this year.

Source: Business Standard