8 July 2013
Petition by African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA)
Honourable Prime Minister,
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), a network of 136 Non-Governmental Organizations in Africa, has learnt that, on 21 June 2013, the Cabinet of Ministers of Mauritius took note that an international tobacco company from Dubai would set up a tobacco manufacturing plant in the free port of Mauritius for export to African countries.
ATCA believes that, under the present circumstances, the Government of Mauritius should be guided by the international treaties to which it is a party as well as by the spirit of regional and international solidarity.
Mauritius was among the first countries in the world to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization (WHO FCTC) in 2004, showing its high-level commitment to tobacco control and public health policy. However, the setting up of the tobacco manufacturing plant in Mauritius indicates a shift in policy, whereby the interest of the tobacco industry is getting greater consideration than public interest. The WHO FCTC states that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.
Furthermore, the increasing tide of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the world, including Africa, led the United Nations to convene a High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the problem in September 2011. Heads of States and representatives of governments present at the meeting issued a Political Declaration which stated the principles and measures to harness the epidemic. The Political Declaration highlighted the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health. Mauritius, as a Member of the United Nations, should ensure that its policies on tobacco control are in conformity with the UN Political Declaration and do not favour the tobacco industry.
Lastly, tobacco manufacturing plants situated in free ports, and particularly those in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are often used for illicit trade in tobacco products. ATCA believes that the proposed tobacco manufacturing plant in Mauritius will be no exception, especially when it emanates from an international tobacco company based in Dubai, one of the members of the UAE. The tobacco plant in Mauritius will make both licit and illicit cigarettes more affordable to populations in Africa and exacerbate the tobacco-related health, social, economic and environmental problems of a continent already faced with numerous challenges, including the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The WHO FCTC calls for sub-regional, regional and global cooperation to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.
Honourable Prime Minister, tobacco kills more than 6 million people annually in the world. Africa is a prime target of the tobacco industry; it wants consumption to increase in the continent as prevalence of tobacco use is going down in developed countries. Already 80% of tobacco-related deaths in the world are happening in low- and middle-income countries. In Mauritius, tobacco use causes 1,000 deaths every year and accounts for 64% of deaths linked to cancers of the lungs, bronchus and trachea. However, it is comforting to note that under your leadership Mauritius has made tremendous strides in tobacco control and is regarded as a model by many countries. ATCA is confident that your Government will pursue its policies in favour of public health and will not allow the tobacco industry to set up the tobacco manufacturing plant in the free port of Mauritius. It will be another personal and significant contribution from you in the fight against the epidemics of tobacco use and non-communicable diseases in Africa and the world.
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