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  Global Views
Tobacco Industries Disregard Nepal's Ratification of Global Treaty
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
A Nepalese youth smokes a cigarette

Despite of Royal Kingdom of Nepal having signed and ratified the first International Treaty on public health and corporate accountability (FCTC — Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), the tobacco industry has violated the salient features of FCTC.

Surya Nepal, a company with largest stakes of British American Tobacco (BAT) and ITC (Indian Tobacco Company — BAT's Indian Subsidiary), has struck a 5 years deal of Rs 20 million with Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) on January 10, 2007. FCTC bans sponsorship of sports by tobacco industries.

There is enough evidence to substantiate that sponsorship of sports by tobacco companies encourages youth to begin tobacco use. Moreover violations of public health and corporate accountability treaty FCTC by tobacco companies in Nepal, should be dealt with a stiff hand by Government of Nepal. Nepal needs to do all what is possible to prevent its young people from tobacco addiction.

Even after ratification of FCTC by Nepal, Surya Nepal had continued to sponsor many sport and entertainment programmes in Nepal, which is a blatant disregard of public health treaty and Nepal Government's commitment to health. For example Surya Lights Rhythm Nites was sponsored on December 1, 2006, at the five-star Hotel Yak and Yeti and on December 2, 2006 at Hotel Shangri-La at Pokhara; Surya Lights Bollywood Temptations: Freedom of Lights Musical Broadway show at 5-star Hotel Hyatt Regency, Rox Bar on December 31, 2006; and Surya Lights Nites on New Year Fiesta, at Liquid Lounge, Lazimpat are just few of the examples of past few months.

Such a breach of an international treaty took place largely due to the lack of comprehensive national anti-tobacco legislation in Nepal which should have been in place immediately after ratification of FCTC. There are many scientific studies to show that such sponsorships by tobacco industry have deleterious effect on teenagers and youngsters.

ITC had tried to sponsor Indian cricket in 1990's, which was challenged in the courts and subsequently ITC had to step back from the sponsorship. After the sponsorship, scientific studies on the effect of such sponsorships on youngsters were also conducted and it was found out that that due to the tobacco brand name "Wills" used to sponsor the World Cricket Cup in 1996, 13% of the students felt the desire to smoke after watching this cricket series.

The recent World Development Report 2007 indicates the tobacco use in adolescent (aged 13-15) are 15% (male) and 6% (female) and probability that 15 years old tobacco smoker will die before the age of 60 in Nepal. It has also recorded that 2.5% adolescents in the age-group of 13-15 were offered free cigarette by tobacco company representatives in eastern Nepal. Similarly, 30% children and 38% adolescent are exposed second-hand smoke in home alone.

In the light of such scientific studies and as per Nepal's commitment under FCTC, we hope that the Government of Nepal will strike off the deal between the Cricket Association of Nepal and tobacco industries, and held them accountable for the violations as well.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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