return icon

Exclusive: India's tobacco industry, government face off ahead of WHO conference

 India's $11 billion tobacco industry has urged the government to take a softer line on tobacco control efforts when it hosts a World Health Organization conference in New Delhi next month,

India's $11 billion tobacco industry has urged the government to take a softer line on tobacco control efforts when it hosts a World Health Organization conference in New Delhi next month, but officials say the government will not bow to "pressure tactics".


A man lights a cigarette along a road in Mumbai, India, October 26, 2016.



Delegates from about 180 countries will attend the Nov. 7-12 WHO conference on the sole global anti-tobacco treaty: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In force since 2005, the treaty aims to deter tobacco use that kills around 6 million people a year.

The industry in India, the world's third-biggest tobacco producer, wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to soften its stance on what it says are tough FCTC measures that threaten livelihoods among the estimated 46 million people linked to the sector.

In documents obtained by a Reuters reporter under India's Right to Information law, industry and farmer groups wrote to officials across government asking to attend the conference and be part of India's delegation, in an effort to protect their interests.

Global tobacco firms have criticized the biennial event for not being transparent, in part because proceedings have in the past not been open to the public, including industry representatives.

The tussle comes at a time when the Indian industry is smarting from measures imposed this year forcing companies to print bigger health warnings on tobacco products.

A tobacco farmers' group this month questioned the legality of India implementing the FCTC treaty, and asked the Delhi High Court to compel the government to allow farmers to attend the WHO conference. A judge last week asked the government to "consider" the plea, but did not rule on the other requests.

"If we take them in the delegation, the government of India may feel embarrassed," said one health ministry official, who didn't want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. "We will not act on these (lobbying documents)".

The FCTC secretariat in Geneva told Reuters it welcomes India's decision, saying its guidelines state that no country should have delegation members linked to the tobacco industry.

Conference decisions on treaty provisions - designed for eventual implementation at national level by signatories - have a direct bearing on the global tobacco industry that Euromonitor International estimates is worth $784 billion this year.

Topics for debate at the conference include alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers, e-cigarettes and trade and investment issues.


The nation's main cigarette industry body, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII), and farmer groups wrote to the agriculture ministry demanding to have their views represented and to be allowed into the WHO conference.

In a Sept. 28 letter, the TII said "there is no obligation on any signatory to the FCTC to comply with or implement any provision of the FCTC". The WHO, however, says the treaty is legally binding on its member countries.

The ministry also received a near-6,000-page petition signed by more than 100,000 farmers seeking protection from FCTC rules.

The TII - which represents cigarette makers including ITC, which is part-owned by British American Tobacco; and Godfrey Phillips, the local partner of Philip Morris International - also sent the health ministry a 'handbook' detailing how FCTC proposals are a threat to farmers' livelihoods.

It asked the government to ensure that "unreasonable and impractical" proposals are not adopted at the FCTC conference.

The TII did not respond to Reuters queries on the make-up of the Indian delegation or the legality of the FCTC.

In another letter, a group representing traditional Indian cigarette makers urged Modi to ensure the health ministry does not make any anti-tobacco commitments before or after the conference, fearing the potential impact on those tied to the industry.

The health ministry official said the government would consider farmers' views, but there was "no soft corner for the industry".

Smoking kills more than 1 million people a year in India, BMJ Global Health estimates. The WHO says tobacco-related diseases cost the country $16 billion annually.

Source: Reuters


EuroCham Chairman praises strong and forward-looking government

Vietnam’s recovery has been ensured by strong and forward-looking government support which helped to bring in more high-profile FDI projects

Many firms suspend raising capital from stock market

Many enterprises have either stopped mobilizing capital or changed their capital-raising plans on the stock market amid existing uncertainties and disadvantages.

HCM City runs out of Covid-19 vaccines

HCM City has run out of Covid-19 vaccines over the past 10 days, said Nguyen Hong Tam, the deputy director of the municipal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.


Chinese police hand over wanted man to Lao Cai authorities

Foreign-invested enterprises face up to procedural barriers

Administrative procedures such as a prolonged timeline for obtaining business licences, as well as overlaps in the legal framework, are continuing to affect the expansion plans of many foreign-invested enterprises in Vietnam. Vietnam among ten attractive destinations to escape Europe’s winter

With its year-round warm tropical climate, breathtakingly beautiful scenery, and exciting culture, Vietnam is gradually becoming an attractive destination for German tourists.


Real estate sector faces debt default risk

Shan Tuyet tea, valuable timber plants named ‘Vietnam Heritage Trees’

More than 1,300 Shan Tuyet tea plants in Ha Giang province and a group of valuable timber trees in Dak Nong province have been recognised as “Vietnam Heritage Trees”.

Fast fashion brands scale up for growth

Surviving and developing in a competitive fast fashion market remains a challenge for many brands, especially for newcomers.

Arguments arise as properties required to be traded on exchange

Controversy has arisen over the Ministry of Construction’s draft of the amended law on real estate trading as it requires real estate products to be traded on an official exchange.

Boeing accelerates cooperation with Vietnamese suppliers

Boeing, the world’s leading aerospace company based in the US, are accelerating cooperation with Vietnamese suppliers and universities to provide a foundation for long-term industrial growth.

Expecting coffee exports to hit a record $4 billion

Vietnam Coffee Cocoa Association (Vicofa) forecasted that if the export price of coffee remained at a high level, as in the first half of the year

Major investors worry as stock market weakens

The stock market boards have been covered with red amid investors’ rising caution. There are few buyers, while selling pressure still exists. Foreign investors’ behavior has affected the market.

Vietnam sees great potential in ASEAN halal market

Despite opportunities available in the ASEAN halal food market, Vietnamese exporters have to date exported only a small amount of halal products to some countries in the region.

Vietnam is becoming a beacon in the region: The Brussels Times

The Brussels Times of Belgium has run an article highlighting that Vietnam is becoming a beacon in the region with the capacity to control inflation and maintain economic growth at a high level despite turbulent international affairs.