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UN initiative bans tobacco companies from rendering help on SDGs

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The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) has delisted tobacco companies from participating in its initiative of involving corporate leadership to achieving the UN development goals.

UNGC, which involves the participation of over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business participants, disclosed in a statement on Tuesday that the exclusion of cigarette companies is to align with the policies of the broader UN system.

The statement announced that companies in certain high-risk sectors, such as the production and manufacture of tobacco products, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons will be excluded from the initiative.

Part of the statement reads: “Participating companies whose business involves manufacturing or producing tobacco products will be delisted effective 15 October 2017.

“Likewise, companies involved in the sale, production, manufacturing, possession, distribution and/or transport of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons will be delisted.”

Companies involved in the production of landmines and cluster bombs were previously excluded.

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Some of the affected tobacco companies are Philip Morris International and British America Tobacco.

Reacting to this development, Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: “The announcement from the UNGC is a positive step for global public health because it prevents tobacco companies from burnishing their public image through association with credible organizations like the United Nations.”

Myers, who applauded the new measures, said the tobacco companies should be ashamed for undermining public health.

“The announcement properly places the tobacco industry in shameful company,” he said. “The only businesses in the world now banned from UNGC participation are those associated with the production of landmines, chemical, nuclear and biological weapons.”

He pointed out that Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and is projected to claim one billion lives this century unless countries take strong action to prevent it.

Myers urged UNGC to take any necessary additional steps to remove all associations or organizations representing the tobacco industry from the initiative – including from its board of directors.

“Along with the UNGC, institutions throughout the United Nations system should adopt policies to insulate themselves from the influence of the tobacco industry,” he added.

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“Such policies would be in line with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a public health treaty that obligates its 181 parties to implement strong tobacco control measures and ensure that public health policies are free from the interference of tobacco companies.

He said the UNGC announcement should serve as an example to governments, other businesses, and public-private partnerships currently engaged with tobacco companies as tobacco companies deceptively use a wide range of tactics to legitimize themselves to build goodwill to sell their deadly products.

“Unless more organisations act to isolate tobacco companies by refusing their membership or participation, the tobacco industry will continue to wield enormous influence around the world, undermine life-saving public health policies and recruit new smokers into a lifetime of addiction,” Myers said.

 

Chikezie can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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