In 2016, a high-profile poster campaign was undertaken by the tobacco industry in Cameroon, sponsored by the Inter Employers Group of Cameroon (GICAM). The 2 key messages were relayed during the campaign:
- Stop the contraband of cigarettes.
- The contraband of cigarettes funds insecurity.
The billboards were displayed in major towns and cities of Cameroon. The message of the campaign linked the issue of illicit trade of tobacco products in Cameroon to the terrorist threat the country. It is revolting to note that the national security concerns of a country are being manipulated by the tobacco industry to further its own interests, with the implicit support of the Cameroonian business sector. ATCA strongly condemns this unethical and unpatriotic behavior which reflects, at the same time, the arrogance and lack of national solidarity of the tobacco industry in the face of a growing national and regional problem.
The tobacco industry is determined to discredit, by all means, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products so that governments adopt its own system. This explains the active lobbying of governments by the tobacco industry not to ratify the WHO Protocol. It is obvious that the campaign in Cameroon was part of a well-orchestrated strategy of the tobacco industry to undermine global efforts to have the Protocol ratified as soon as possible and find a real and lasting solution to the illicit trade of tobacco products in the world.
In response, we supported the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control (C3T), our member in Cameroon to urge authorities and the public not to be swayed by the campaign of the tobacco industry, intentionally planned a few months ahead of the COP7 to derail the process of FCTC implementation. A press conference was held to denounce the event and advocacy letters were sent to authorities, notably the Minister of Communication, who is also the President of the National Advertising Council. One week into the campaign, the minister sent a letter congratulating C3T for its vigilance and stating that he had ordered for the halt of this campaign. Effectively, the billboards were removed almost immediately.