WHO: tobacco expo in PH may affect sin tax reform debate

Rappler.com
The WHO is concerned that a tobacco industry organized event “could undermine Department of Health’s advocacy for tobacco taxes in the Philippines legislature”

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization on Tuesday, March 13, expressed concern that the Philippine hosting of a tobacco exposition event this month could affect ongoing debates in Congress on the sin tax reform bill for tobacco products.

The event, “ProTobExt Asia and Inter-tabac Asia 2012,” will be held from March 15 to 17 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

The WHO, through its representative for Western Pacific Dr. Shin Young-soo, said in a statement that  it is “deeply concerned” that the event “could undermine Department of Health’s advocacy for tobacco taxes in the Philippines legislature.”

Shin said the event provides a “platform for the industry to promote a deadly product in the Philippines and throughout Asia.”

“Promotion of tobacco products at this sensitive stage of the policy debate could be detrimental to achieving public health goals. We have officially transmitted our concerns on this matter to the Department of Health,” he pointed out.

Shin noted that as a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), thePhilippines is obligated to completely ban tobacco promotion, advertising and sponsorship.”

The FCTC is a public health treaty initiated by the WHO to regulate tobacco sponsorship, use, promotion and advertising.  The Philippines is among more than 170 other countries who are signatories of this treaty.

House Bill No. 5727 or the sin tax reform bill that seeks to increase tobacco taxes is currently pending in Congress.

Tobacco control group against gov’t participation in expo

A regional tobacco control group, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), wrote the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, echoing the WHO’s alarm and concern about the nature of the event.

SEATCA called on government officials to not participate in the tobacco industry event. 

SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee wrote expressing her unease that “the tobacco industry has proudly announced that they have the support of the local government of Pasay, Metro Manila, which has issued a waiver to the organizers allowing smoking in the show venue.” 

She added that “Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has reportedly been invited to officiate at the event.”

“The Philippines and the Filipino people should be forewarned against welcoming ProTobEx in any way,” SEATCA Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Mary Assunta said.

Expo targeted PH for vibrant tobacco culture

The website of ProTobEx ASIA describes it as “a unique B2B event serving the tobacco manufacturing and leaf sectors.” It says the latest innovations in primary processing, cigarette making and packaging will be on show at ProTobEx. It also says the event will be held in conjunction with its sister show — Inter-tabac ASIA, dubbed as the region’s “only international trade show exclusively highlighting tobacco products and accessories.”

The site further says Manila was selected as the venue of the event “after months of in-depth research into potential locations throughout Asia for a number of compelling reasons. The Philippines has a vibrant tobacco industry.” 

It adds that “tobacco has played, and continues to play, an important role in the domestic economy, earning millions of dollars for the country. There is a long and rich history of tobacco cultivation dating back hundreds of years, and the Philippines produces a wide variety of tobacco types from a strong and resilient agricultural base.” – Rappler.com

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