Tobacco Industry Interference in Cameroon
Tobacco Control in Cameroon
Cameroon ratified the WHO-FCTC on 03 February 2006. Prior to ratification, the only legal instrument on tobacco control was a Decision passed in 1988 banning smoking in health institutions. After ratification, Cameroon passed a law - Law No. 2006/018 - in 2006, banning all forms of advertising. In 2007, it adopted an Order which mandates that an average of 50% of the front and rear principal display areas of the cigarette package be covered with health warnings. Educational facilities, including universities, do not allow smoking since 2007. However, the tobacco control legislation in Cameroon is weak, allowing the tobacco industry to maintain its activities without adequate control from national authorities.
Tobacco Industry Interference
The tobacco industry in Cameroon is engaged in the manufacture, export and import of tobacco products. The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, encourages the cultivation of tobacco by providing grants to the Federation of Tobacco Growers in Cameroon (FPTC). It recently provided a grant of 150 million FCFA (500 FCFA = USD 1) to 900 farmers of the Federation of Tobacco and Food Crops Growers in Cameroon.
The tobacco industry takes advantage of the absence of a comprehensive tobacco control law in Cameroon to develop its activities freely:
- It continues with the marketing and advertising of its product in violation of the Law No. 2006/018 of 29 December 2006.
- The proliferation of kiosks, posters, umbrellas, T-shirts and other communication gadgets bearing the logos of the cigarette brands is noticeable in the major cities of Cameroon.
- On the television, advertising of tobacco products is done through local celebrities exhibiting or using tobacco products.
- Television series exhibit tobacco brands and show scenes of smoking.
- Advertising of tobacco products including electronic cigarette is present on the internet through social networks managed by Cameroonians.
- Advertising also takes place in supermarkets and other commercial spaces of metropolitan Cameroon.
- On 11 June 2013, the tobacco industry published an advertisement entitled "What would the world be without the tobacco industry" in the ‘Cameroon Tribune’ claiming to contribute to the national economy and portraying the illicit trade of tobacco as the issue requiring attention.
- On April 4, 2014, it published an advertisement in the "Cameroun Tribune" entitled " The illegal sale of cigarettes without tax stamps in Cameroon is a growing scourge" and described the sale of cigarettes without tax stamps as a loss of revenue to government.
- On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2014, British American Tobacco issued a press release calling upon the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments to rely on low-harm tobacco products for a more modern approach to tobacco control (refer http://www.cameroun-online.com/?pg=actu&id=26388).
- It is believed that the tobacco industry offers shares to senior officials in the Cameroonian administration to undermine the process of adoption of the national tobacco control bill and the implementation of the existing tobacco control provisions.
Thus the tobacco industry in Cameroon is considered as a major obstacle in the adoption of a comprehensive tobacco control law.
Monitoring the Tobacco Industry in Cameroon
Tobacco industry monitoring (TIM) in Cameroon was carried out by the NGO "Coalition Camerounaise Contre le Tabac (C3T)". It is a coalition of 20 community-based organizations dedicated exclusively to tobacco control and FCTC implementation. The objective of C3T was to monitor, expose and denounce the activities of the tobacco industry aimed at weakening tobacco control.
C3T conducted several activities with the support of ATCA to respond to cases of tobacco industry interference observed in Cameroon.
- It set up a tobacco industry monitoring team (TIM team) to track the activities of the industry and alert national authorities and the public.
- It organized workshops on tobacco industry monitoring and tactics in view of building the capacity of civil society advocates and journalists, considered essential for tracking and exposing the tobacco industry in violation of FCTC Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
- Conferences and other press meetings were organised, leading to several stories being published through blogs, newsletters and the social media.
- Advocacy with the media led to the publication of a number of articles in newspapers.
- Throughout the duration of the project, C3T conducted advocacy with high level government cadres, politicians, religious authorities and parliamentarians for the adoption of the national tobacco control bill.
- In August 2013, C3T wrote a letter to the Prime Minister denouncing the violation of law N°. 2006/018 of 29 December 2006 governing tobacco advertising in Cameroon. The letter was copied to the Minister of Health, Minister of Commerce and the Minister of Communication.
- In June 2014, C3T wrote a letter of protest against the cultivation of tobacco in Cameroon to the Prime Minister with copy to the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture.
a. A TIM team was set up to keep watch on the tobacco industry and denounce its interference in tobacco control.
b. The capacity of C3T to monitor the tobacco industry was improved.
c. There is increased awareness and support among civil society organizations and the media on article 5.3 of the FCTC and its guidelines.
The strong presence of the tobacco industry in Cameroon, with its huge resources, represents a major challenge to the efforts of tobacco control advocates for the adoption of an FCTC-compliant legislation. Resources are scarce to face the might of the tobacco industry. There is also a visible lack of interest from decision-makers with regard to adopting strong measures against the tobacco industry because of vested interests in the tobacco industry operations. The adoption and effective implementation of the FCTC will only take place when there is a change in attitudes towards the tobacco industry at the highest level of government.