This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme focuses on the interference of tobacco industry. This day also coincides with the launch of the national mass media campaign for the Ministry of Public Health on the enforcement of the tobacco control law which bans smoking 100% in public places.
Tobacco Industry has been interfering in Lebanon’s tobacco control efforts prior to the passage of the law. When the law was still being discussed in the parliamentary committee, the tobacco industry managed to find a seat and voiced their opinions in a committee which was discussing a public health law. With the increased pressure from the National Tobacco Control Program, some MPs and civil society, the industry’s representatives were asked to leave and the Regie (the Lebanese tobacco monopoly) remained throughout all the sessions. Throughout this period, many versions of the law were created some articles were revised and weakened. In the end, the law maintained its comprehensiveness and overall strong policies (100% smoke free places, 100% advertisement ban, and the inclusion of 40% health warnings on tobacco packets and packaging).
After the passage of the law, implementation was to take place in 3 different phases. The second phase, which bans advertisement and started on the 3rd of March 2012, gave a grace period of 6 month before going into force. Till this day, we find much tobacco product advertisement in public places mainly on grocery store banners, shop fronts and inside the stores especially on the points of sales. The tobacco industry has been subverting the law and using color codes while continuing their advertisement outdoor in addition to spreading misinformation that indoor advertisement is allowed!
These activities might be new to Lebanon, but they are not so for the tobacco industry whose tactics have not changed from country to another and who are trying to implement tobacco control measures. To remove obstacles facing the world progress in ratifying and enforcing laws in accordance to the FCTC which ultimately leads to the reduction of the health and economic burdens of smoking, we should highlight the increasing role and tactics that tobacco industry play in subverting such efforts on all levels.