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AUSTRALIA: MAKING INDUSTRY CONTACT TRANSPARENT

All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to: d.simpson@iath.org

Tobacco control advocates worldwide will recognise a particular scenario from the bad old days. After trying for months to meet the health minister to discuss tobacco control policy, using every available contact, perhaps marshalling a top level team of the great and the good from your country's medical profession, eventually, after false starts and postponements, you get a meeting, to find that the minister has been called away. You have been palmed off with an official, and a not very senior one, for an inconclusive meeting that advances your cause not one iota.

Then you find that tobacco industry executives had waltzed into the minister's office weeks ago, soon after demanding a meeting, or even had a working lunch with the minister and senior officials. They got a preview of forthcoming policy, the better to plan its circumvention; and you later find that other such meetings had taken place, with tobacco companies actually helping to shape the policy into what they, backed by their friend the finance minister, had agreed they could work with, meaning business could continue as usual, with uninterrupted recruitment of young people to smoking. Naturally, when this happened, you felt a unique sense of outrage. One of the fundamental injustices of tobacco control policy had been illustrated, and in a most distasteful way.

Now, however, guidelines on how to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) can help make such absurd situations history, because they have been designed by experienced people and organisations genuinely concerned about health, not tobacco company profits. Article 5.3 of the FCTC says governments should protect their health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry; and one …

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