NGOs give trade ministry “Marlboro Man Award

May 31, 2012

For Immediate Release:
May 31st, 2012

Contact:
John Stewart, 857-413-6261
Andrew Skipalsky (Ukraine)

UKRAINE—Big Tobacco’s international campaign to derail public health policy has a global united front to contend with this World No Tobacco Day. Today, the Network for the Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT), comprised of more than 100 organizations from 50 countries, gave the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade the “Marlboro Man” award—a less-than-prestigious prize given to a government that is furthering Big Tobacco’s interests and putting tobacco profits over people. Center Life, a Ukrainian public health organization, gave the Ministry of Economics the dubious honor at a press conference today for requesting a consultation at the World Trade Organization challenging Australia's plain cigarette packaging law, although the tobacco growing country has no tobacco trade with Australia.

Even as tobacco’s annual death toll soars beyond six million, Big Tobacco has stepped up its efforts to prevent proven tobacco control laws from taking effect. Highly visible examples include lawsuits by Philip Morris International and its competitors against countries like Australia, Norway and Uruguay for implementing strong tobacco control laws.

The Ministry’s action highlights Big Tobacco’s latest tactic to divide and conquer, turning trade and commerce ministries against public health ministries, even though the global tobacco treaty (formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC) recognizes that Parties have the right to prioritize health over trade concerns, a right supported by both the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). PMI, whose market share is 32.2 percent in the Ukraine, publicly admitted that it is open to providing legal assistance to the Ukraine.

“The Ukraine has made significant progress to rein in the tobacco epidemic since ratifying the FCTC in 2006,” said Andrew Skipalsky, CEO of Center-Life. “But by doing Big Tobacco’s dirty work to block Australia’s efforts to protect kids from tobacco’s deadly effects, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade is really tarnishing our international reputation.”
The award was one of dozens of actions organized across the globe calling on governments to stand strong against tobacco industry intimidation and interference in public health policy. Health ministries, educators and advocates were readied with posters, fliers, toolkits and other promotional materials featuring the initiative’s theme: “tobacco industry interference.” All of the day’s actions are a prelude to pivotal global tobacco treaty meetings this November in Seoul.

“The death toll is rising not only because Big Tobacco aggressively markets a deadly, addictive product, but also because the industry does everything in its power to obstruct tobacco control efforts,” said Gigi Kellett, Challenge Big Tobacco campaign director with Corporate Accountability International. “Now is the time for government actions that promote public health – not those that further Big Tobacco’s deadly agenda to intimidate countries implementing the life-saving global tobacco treaty.”

NATT is calling on the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade to fulfill the Ukraine’s obligations under international law, rescind the legal complaint and safeguard its public health policies against tobacco industry interference. These safeguards should follow a key provision of the FCTC, Article 5.3 and its guidelines, which include codes of conduct for government employees to avoid conflicts of interest, policies limiting tobacco industry interactions with government activities and those that put in place public disclosure measures regarding interactions with the tobacco industry and its proxies.

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