Mail sent to the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection
- On 25 June 2015, VISA sent a mail to the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection in connection with a communique dated 10 June 2015 issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection (Commerce Division) and published in the newspaper L’Express of 15 June 2015, informing, among others, that as from 02 June 2015, the following items would no longer be prohibited for importation: 1.“Roll your own cigarettes” papers imported under H S Code 48.13; and 2. Rolling machines, other than rolling machines of industrial types, used to manufacture cigarettes.
- The mail was copied to the Prime Minister of Mauritius and the Minister of Health and Quality of Life.
- VISA pointed out to the Minister that the Government of Mauritius ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization (WHO FCTC) in 2004. Ratification implies that Mauritius is obligated to adhere to the articles of the Convention. Today, the Convention is the blueprint for governments throughout the world, including that of Mauritius, for adopting and implementing tobacco control policies in view of reducing the health, economic, social, and environmental consequences of tobacco use. Article 4 of the FCTC lays down the principles that should guide governments in the implementation of the treaty and one of these principles states that “comprehensive multisectoral measures and responses are essential so as to prevent the incidence of diseases, premature disability, and mortality due to tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”
- It is therefore the responsibility of the whole government, including your Ministry, to ensure that the Convention is effectively implemented and tobacco-related diseases and deaths are minimized in Mauritius.
- However, it was evident from the communique of 10 June 2015 that the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection was not being guided by the spirit of collective responsibility with regards to tobacco control. The decision of the Ministry was in direct conflict with government policy of reducing tobacco use which is one of the major risk factors leading to the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems in Mauritius. Furthermore, the decision was against one of the key mandates of his Ministry, namely, the protection of Mauritian consumers. In this particular case, it was obvious that the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection was not protecting public health but the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry.
- VISA pointed out that there was unequivocal evidence that tobacco is a killer product, fuelling deaths and diseases and the epidemic of non-communicable diseases in Mauritius and worldwide. There is no consumer product that is as dangerous as tobacco. In Mauritius, tobacco use is responsible for 64% of deaths related to cancers of the trachea, bronchus, and lungs, 8 % of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, 11% of deaths among men, and 8% of all deaths attributable to non-communicable diseases. Tobacco kills more than 50% of its users; it kills more than AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, road accidents, malaria, and illegal drugs combined.
- Furthermore, there was the impending threat that with the introduction of the tobacco rolling paper and machines in Mauritius, the unit cost of the rolled cigarettes would be lower than conventional ones, leading to an increase in consumption among RYO users and attracting new smokers to the use of RYO. This was a disturbing scenario for the government and health advocates in Mauritius, downsizing the benefits of the tobacco control policies adopted so far.
- In view of the above, VISA appealed to the Minister to maintain the prohibition on the importation of tobacco rolling paper and machines. The benefits of prohibiting the importation of RYO paper and machines far outweighed the pecuniary gains made by a handful of businesses.