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Entrepreneurs’ sway on policy leaves tobacco-control in tatters



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By A Staff Reporter

Kathmandu, Oct. 4: Interference from the industrialists and businessmen has left a negative impact on regulation and control of tobacco related products in the country, concluded a recent study.
A study by the Resource Centre for Primary Health Care (RECPHEC) published on Thursday found that the tobacco entrepreneurs have been promoting tobacco products under various brands, motivating the citizens, especially the young ones, in taking up smoking and intervening in tobacco related policy making the implementation of law.
The study was conducted simultaneously in 33 countries. Executive Director of RECPHEC Shanta Lal Mulmi handed over the Nepal report to Director of Health Education Information and Communication Centre Kunja Prasad Joshi in the presence of World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Nepal Country Representative Dr. Jos Vandelaer.
Nepal is at the eighth position, among the 33 nations, in terms of entrepreneurs’ interference. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are facing higher interference on tobacco policy and markets by the businessmen.
According to the study, the tobacco entrepreneurs offer economic incentives to the policy makers during the policy making process. They also mislead the government and society in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, and promote tobacco products in cinema and other multimedia products.
It concluded that the tobacco related products like cigarettes and refined tobacco do not carry 90 per cent colour graphics to warn about the risks they pose to the smokers.
Mulmi accused the government of allowing the tobacco entrepreneurs to damage public health with highest taxpayer’s award to tobacco industries.
The report mentioned that the discussion and decision of the discussions between the entrepreneurs and the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Home Affairs or Ministry of Industry are not transparent.
It has recommended making the income and expenditure for promotion more transparent and providing more responsibility and power to the local bodies and Deputy District Officer in order to minimise the interference of the entrepreneurs in the policy and market.
Dr. Vandelaer suggested that the brand name of tobacco products should be written in the smallest letters.
About 27,137 people die every year in Nepal due to tobacco consumption. Nepalis spend Rs. 47 billion in purchasing tobacco products per annum.
A decade ago, tobacco was the cause of 16,000 deaths a year which has gone up to 27,000 a year now.
Under Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population Pushkar Raj Nepal said that 31 per cent Nepalis consume tobacco. Of them, about 1 million have serious long-term illness caused by tobacco consumption.