LETTER | Tomorrow is World No Tobacco Day (Could 31). The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Management (MCTC) is severely saddened by the “current” all Malaysians have been given at the side of World No Tobacco Day 2021, at the same time as we proceed to be ravaged by the pandemic.
This “current” was the assembly between prime officers of the Well being Ministry (MOH) and Naeem Shahab Khan, Managing Director of Philip Morris Malaysia. The MCTC is extraordinarily involved about this occasion. Much more worrying was the truth that this assembly was publicised on the official Fb web page of the MOH in addition to in different mainstream media.
It’s alleged that this assembly was underneath the aegis of donating PPEs and different medical gear which was contributed collectively by trade and Yayasan Salam Malaysia, who was represented by Mior Kamarulbaid Mior Shahid, one among its board members.
Though there was a rebuttal on the MOH webpage which states that this assembly was in an effort to remind the corporate involved on the necessity to stay compliant to tobacco management legal guidelines and nothing else, MCTC nonetheless feels that there are lots of purple flags raised as a result of assembly.
First, why the necessity for the highest administration of MOH, which included the minister and the chief secretary to satisfy and obtain medical gear contributions from these events? All through the pandemic, far bigger contributions have been made by trade companions which didn’t necessitate the necessity for such conferences.
As well as, if this assembly was certainly used as an avenue to offer a reminder to the tobacco trade companion on compliance with tobacco management legal guidelines, it could have definitely been conflicted as a result of reality the MOH gave the impression to be receiving donations throughout the identical assembly as nicely.
As talked about above, equally regarding was the truth that MOH official media revealed accounts of the assembly and till prompted to take action by varied netizens, had posted this as merely an official go to wherein trade CSR was being carried out.
It’s prudent to remind all stakeholders at this stage that Malaysia is a signatory to the Framework Conference on Tobacco Management (FCTC) and Article 5.3 of that instrument particularly mentions the necessity to defend public well being pursuits from industrial and different vested pursuits of the tobacco trade.
The World Well being Organisation (WHO) and different watchdogs have additionally famous that the apply of utilizing “donations” to “open doorways” to involved stakeholders throughout the Covid-19 pandemic is a tried and examined tactic of the tobacco trade.
It has been documented in numerous international locations all through the pandemic and is getting used to push the tobacco trade’s personal agenda, which has at all times been in direct distinction to the well being issues of the general public.
MCTC and its fellow civil-society-organisations would right here prefer to make some pointed observations to all stakeholders each in the private and non-private sector when coping with donations and such like for the Covid-19 pandemic :
i) Whereas all events’ contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic efforts is welcomed, there a must be cautious in “blowing up” or “publicising” these efforts particularly after they come from industries which can be in direct battle with well being.
Many trade companions have made huge contributions to the MOH, different ministries and on to medical establishments throughout the pandemic. Many have completed so in full anonymity with real intent – with no intention for publicity in any respect. So have civil-society organisations (CSOs) together with many who’re MCTC members who’ve contributed thousands and thousands of ringgit to the Covid-19 trigger.
It’s needful for all stakeholders, be it the MOH or different events to judge the events offering donations to the reason for Covid-19 and watch out that this isn’t a “hidden” motive to additional their very own agenda and tamper with public well being insurance policies.
By permitting tobacco trade officers entry to the highest administration of the MOH, improper messages are being despatched. There may be an inherent battle between these events who’re upholding the pursuits of Malaysians when it comes to well being, and the tobacco trade whose merchandise are confirmed to be detrimental to well being. Prime officers of the MOH shouldn’t be assembly with the tobacco trade.
All dealings with the trade, when wanted when it comes to instruction and censure, have beforehand been carried out on the degree of the FCTC secretariat which has related technical officers. This apply is the norm for all international locations which are FCTC signatories. Why ought to we be doing any totally different?
ii) The official media channels of the MOH should equally be cognisant of publicising efforts supported by any organisation and first decide whether or not or not they’re appearing in opposition to the curiosity of well being. The NGO talked about within the assembly who was in attendance along with the PMI consultant has had an extended historical past of collaboration with the tobacco trade in varied efforts.
By publicising these conferences/donations from organisations who’ve actively proven cooperation and efforts in working along with the tobacco trade and different stakeholders, MOH is sending a message that legitimises these organisations which have a detrimental impression on the well being of the general public.
This additionally sends a sign to society that organisations comparable to these within the tobacco trade are “all-right” and “not-so-bad”. The message going out is easy: In any case, if MOH is working along with them, they’ll’t be all that unhealthy proper?
There must be no publicity which promotes any form of organisation that has a detrimental impression on well being throughout the board. As the primary well being stakeholder for all Malaysians, MOH have to be particularly cautious concerning the messaging it sends throughout to the general public.
MCTC and its fellow civil-society organisations urge the federal government to not neglect concerning the risks brought on by all tobacco merchandise, even amidst this Covid-19 pandemic. MOH analysis in addition to different international publications have clearly identified the extra hazard from Covid-19 to people who smoke, these uncovered to second and third-hand smoke; and now to these utilizing vape as nicely.
The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed to us the significance of preventive well being behaviour and the significance of public well being insurance policies. All parts of tobacco management proceed to be extraordinarily related in taking part in an element particularly to scale back the impression of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We should always not let our guard down and particularly shouldn’t be lulled into believing “Malicious program items” from organisations that are recognized to be engaged in actions detrimental to well being.
MCTC and its fellow civil-society organisations would additionally prefer to warn events who’re attempting to reap the benefits of the present pandemic and financial uncertainties to ahead their very own pro-tobacco agenda.
We stay vigilant to any and all such strikes to undermine the general public well being measures that are in place to guard Malaysians from all well being dangers and preserve our individuals protected.
The views expressed listed below are these of the authors/contributors and don’t essentially characterize the views of Malaysiakini.