Tobacco Industry Interference in Congo Brazzaville
Tobacco Control in Congo Brazzaville
Congo Brazzaville signed the FCTC on 23 March 2004 and ratified it on 6 January 2007. In between signing and ratifying the Convention, a circular (No. 00392) was issued, in October 2006, which :
- bans tobacco advertising in the media (radio, TV, posters, billboards and the press);
- bans tobacco promotion in bars, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs; and
- allows promotion of tobacco brands within an area of two metres around the points of sale of tobacco products.
A national tobacco control law was adopted on 12 July 2012, but there is no decree yet for implementing it. In the emantime, the tobacco industry continues unhindered with its marketing strategies and at the same time interfering in policy formulation to weaken tobacco control.
In Congo Brazzaville, the leading tobacco company is a branch of Imperial Tobacco Group named “Societe Industrielle et Agricole du Tabac Tropical” (SIAT). Cigarettes are also imported from neighbouring countries like Gabon (SOCIGA) and Cameroon (BAT).
Many cases of interference of the tobacco industry in tobacco control policies have been noted in Congo Brazzaville.
1- The industry is intensely engaged in delaying the process of validation of the four decrees that are required for the implementation of the law adopted in 2012. Despite the concerted efforts of regional partners, including WHO, the decrees still have to be adopted. The industry interferes with the process in a very discreet manner, as in other countries, by seeking the support of key persons in government administration.
2- The industry tries to mobilize government support by claiming its contribution to the economic development of the country and exaggerating its contribution to the national income.
3- The tobacco industry supports its claim of supporting the economy by paying a complementary tax on tobacco products, a third of which goes to the government budget and the remaining to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Brazzaville (CHU).
4- It is believed that there is conflict of interest at the higher level of government administration as the tobacco industry offers shares to senior officials with a view to derailing the process of adoption of the implementing decrees and protecting its own interests.
5- Promotion and advertising is a common feature in Congo Brazzaville, despite the Circular No 00392 of 2006 banning advertising and promotion. Kiosks and umbrellas are used as points of sale of tobacco products and T-shirts and other gadgets bearing the logos and brands of the tobacco industry are distributed throughout the country.
Monitoring the Tobacco Industry in Congo Brazzaville
Monitoring of the tobacco industry in Congo Brazzaville was carried out by Réseau des ONG Congolaises de Lutte Antitabac (ROCAT), a network of CSOs engaged in the promotion of health in general and tobacco control in particular. Prior to conducting the TIM project, ROCAT, with the support of ATCA, was actively engaged in building the capacity of CSOs, supporting the adoption of the tobacco control law of 2012 and development of the implementation decrees.
The objective of the tobacco industry monitoring project in Congo Brazzaville was to counter the tobacco industry interference in the development of the ministerial decrees. The following activities were organized:
* A TIM team was set up to systematically monitor, expose and denounce the activities of the tobacco industry. The TIM team was set up as a result of the training workshop on tobacco industry monitoring organized by ATCA in Lome, Togo, in 2013 and attended by a journalist and a representative of ROCAT.
* Press conferences were held and attended by major public and private media agencies, denouncing the attempts of the tobacco industry to delay the process of adoption of the implementating decrees. Several articles were published, indicating a greater involvement of the media in tobacco control.
* ROCAT conducted advocacy with public administration, politicians/parliamentarians and religious bodies through face-to-face meetings to garner support for the adoption of the implementing decrees. These interventions created a more favourable environment for tobacco control and garnered increased support for the decrees awaiting adoption.
a. The capacity of the NGO network to monitor the tobacco Industry increased significantly.
b. A TIM Team was set up to monitor, expose and denounce the tobacco industry.
c. The media got more engaged in tobacco control and the public was better informed about the tobacco industry tactics.
d. Decision-makers became more aware of tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policy development and implementation.
The TIM team played a key role in supporting the development of the implementing decrees and protecting them from the interference of the tobacco industry. There is need for continuous vigilance in order to prevent the tobacco industry from further infiltrating the administration and delaying the process of adoption of the decrees. High level advocacy with the President and the Minister of Health is required to counter the tobacco industry and get the decrees adopted.