Lack of transparency leads to industry interference

Article 5.3 Guidelines recommend governments ensure transparency by requiring periodic disclosures from the tobacco industry about its activities and practices. When procedures to obtain such information are in place, the information can guide officials in preventing tobacco industry interference. Figure 7 shows countries’ ranking in putting in place transparency measures when interacting with the tobacco industry Of the fourteen countries surveyed, five, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, have set out guidelines and procedures for all interaction between government officials and the tobacco industry.

Figure 7: Transparency

In Ethiopia, a clear guideline has been developed for all interactions between government officials and the tobacco industry. This limits such interactions to only those strictly necessary for effective regulation of the tobacco industry or tobacco products, or to ensure honesty and transparency with appropriate documentation. Consistent with this, during the review period, all meetings conducted by the NTE with EFDA on the draft tobacco control directive and pictorial health warning were made public, full minutes recorded and all corresponding email conversations were shared with tobacco control committees. This is consistent with Article 5.3 Guidelines and can be recommended to other countries as best practice. However, there is no registry of entities and individuals acting on behalf of the tobacco industry such as lobbyists.

In Gabon, even though there is a clear guideline on the prevention of tobacco industry interference in health policies and disclosures, the government does not make public its meetings with the tobacco industry. Similarly in Kenya, despite the existence of guidelines for interaction, information on meetings between public officials and the tobacco industry is not readily accessible.

Nigeria specifies in its guidelines on transparency, openness and making public records of meetings and all interactions with the tobacco industry. However, most government ministries, do not disclose information, citing the Official Secrets Act which prohibits some branches of government from disclosing “unauthorized information” as an explanation for nondisclosure.

In Uganda, there is a comprehensive Tobacco Control Act (TCA) with a section in favour of Article 5.333 which is highly commendable, however, there are no guidelines for the disclosure of records of interaction (such as agenda, attendees, minutes and outcome) with the tobacco industry and its representatives. As a result of this, BAT met with the Prime Minister on the TCA and the regulations. Details of this meeting were not made public. Currently, there are no clear guidelines for disclosure of government officials’ engagement with the tobacco industry for other countries. In Ghana, the tobacco industry and its entities are mandated to disclose or display health warnings and messages, as well as information on the constituents and emissions of their products. But there is no specific regulation that obligates the government to disclose details of meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry, except where it stated in L.I. 2247, that all interactions between the regulator (Food and Drugs Authority) and industry must be limited to tobacco control and enforcement. However, there has not been any notification about pending meetings between the two parties or any reports about engagement made available to the public. Likewise, in South Africa, there are no guidelines that specifically apply to the disclosure of meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry, and this applies to the rest of the countries surveyed.