Response To MOH’s Statement Denying Visit From Tobacco Industry Reps – MCTC

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provides a list of do’s and don’ts for all public officials when dealing with tobacco industry-related officials.

The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) would like to thank the Ministry of Health (MOH) for its quick and prompt investigation on the issue raised by the council pertaining to the alleged visit by tobacco industry representatives to some of its senior officials.

The MCTC is further buoyed by the MOH’s response in which the ministry states firmly that there are no plans to breach Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and that it will not compromise with any officer who violates the guidelines of Article 5.3 and related policies.

As the MOH’s strongest supporter in the arena of tobacco control for decades, the MCTC unequivocally stands together with the government and the MOH in safeguarding the health of all Malaysians.

However, the MCTC is always vigilant about all aspects of tobacco control, including efforts by various parties to mislead MOH officials and subverting them into seemingly supporting pro-tobacco activities.

For example, although the MOH has clarified that the representatives in this meeting had introduced themselves as representatives of a bicycle and printing company respectively, one of these individuals is a publicly known office holder of a tobacco product organisation, having appeared in multiple media events and forums on national media.

It may be naïve to presume that despite this individual professing to be present for a meeting on supposed weight reduction programme proposals; news of such a meeting could be used as false support for the industry.

In fact, the strategy of proposing weight reduction programmes in conjunction with tobacco products is a strategy that has been used for decades. Many of these strategies have been comprehensively documented in the WHO’s Tobacco Industry Interference with Tobacco Control report.

In line with World Cancer Day celebrations on February 3, 2023, the deputy health minister has categorically stated that the government will continue moving forward to table the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 this year.

The MCTC fully expects that there will be full-blown interference efforts from many different parties through many different strategies. We laud the MOH’s strong statement and actions, and we put forward a further suggestion that the government immediately draft and put into place a code of conduct for all public officials to ensure their compliance to Article 5.3 of the FCTC.

Such a code of conduct has been in place in many countries and provides a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for all public officials when dealing with tobacco or tobacco product industry-related officials.

As the lead stakeholder within the government, the MOH should lead efforts to ensure that public officials across the board are made aware of such a code of conduct, and to ensure that it is being adhered to.

On its part, the MCTC will continue to play its role to educate the public (including public officials) on various aspects of tobacco control, support the government in efforts to further strengthen tobacco control efforts, and also act as a social conscience barometer for all Malaysians (including public officials) to ensure that together, we can protect Malaysians from all health risks and keep everyone safe.

The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) is the umbrella civil society body for tobacco control in Malaysia and comprises 41 organisations.

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