Webinar 2: Protecting Youth and children from Industry Manipulation in the South Asia Region

The second webinar of the “World No Tobacco Day 2020 webinar series” organised by the Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT), together with the South Asian Regional Consortium Centre for Combating Tobacco (SARC-CCT) network and the  International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union) was successfully held on14th June 2020 Sunday 0090h -1100h (SL timeGMT+5.30). The theme of the webinar was “Protecting Youth and children from Industry Manipulation in the South Asia Region”.

Initiating the webinar the deputy regional director of the Union, India and the SARC-CCT Technical advisory Panel Memebr Dr. Rana J. Singh, explained the importance of the webinar and the values of working together as a region. Launching of the 8th edition of the bimonthly news letter Tobacco Free Times published by the Resource Centre for Tobacco Control, PGIMER, Chandigar India also happened at the beginning of the webinar byProf. Sonu Goel, the Chief Editor of the newsletter and the SARC-CCT Committee Member from India.

Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya, Director of the CCT gave a recap on the first webinar of the series which was held two weeks back under the theme “Tobacco industry manipulation of youth and children in the South Asia Region.

Starting the country presentations Dr. Mohammad Nazir, SARC-CCT Committee Member from Afghanistan, explained the gaps in existing tobacco control laws on protecting children’s rights in Afghanistan. He further highlighted the importance of operationalizing the World Health Organisation(WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(FCTC) Article 5.3 in the country.

Mr Chhimi Dorji, from Bhutan explained the story of banning tobacco in Bhutan and highlighted the importance of regulation of E-cigarettes. He further elaborated the need of strengthening the implementation of the control policies at the community level  to protect children and youth from Tobacco in Bhutan.

Mr. Hassan Sharihar, the SARC-CCT Committee member from Bangladesh presented a case study on successfully counteracting a tobacco industry interference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh. Grameenphone, the largest telecom company of Bangladesh withdrew a  misleading e-cigarette COVID-19 ‘awareness’ post from its Facebook page as a result of advocacy from tobacco control stakeholders.

Prof. Sonu Goel presented the success story of how the Smoking Hazard and Advertisements Bill 1996 was implemented in India overcoming objections and interference from the Tobacco Industries.

Mr. Hassan Mohamed, the SARC-CCT Committee member from Maldives described about the prevailing tobacco control laws in Maldives and gaps to be addressed to protect youth and children from tobacco and tobacco related products.

Mr. Mazhar Arif, explained the importance of prevailing tobacco control laws in Pakistan. He further added the importance of increasing awareness among children and the need for persistent monitoring to protect them from Industry manipulations.

Mr. Bhisha Kafle the SARC-CCT fellow from Nepal  presented a success story of gaining support of a current parliamentarian in Nepal for tobacco control activities. A former smoker, he quitted smoking and then became a pioneer activist in tobacco prevention in Nepal.

Dr. Manuja Perera, Editor TobaccoUnamskedand TUSouth.Asia websites and Deputy Project Director of CCT described the prevailing tobacco control measures and gaps in Sri Lanka and highlighted how the greatest resource had been empowered community in the successes of tobacco control in Sri Lanka.

A panel discussion by three distinguished panellists Prof. Stella Biolous, Dr. Tara Singh and Dr. Diyanath Samarasinghe followed the country presentations.

Prof. Stella Biolous from Centre for Tobacco Control and Research Education, University of California, San Francisco mentioned that the tobacco control measures in the South Asia region against novel tobacco products should be strengthened. She further elaborated the importance of banning Cooperate Social Responsibility(CSR) activities of tobacco industry and their marketing and promotions.

Dr. Tara Singh, Deputy Regional Director, The Union Pacific Office, Singapore explained the need to go beyond monitoring and importance of taking actions against tobacco industry interference in the region. He also stressed the importance of holding the governments responsible and accountable in controlling tobacco.

Dr. Diyanath Samarasinghe from Sri Lanka stressed the importance of going beyond the governments in addressing the entity called tobacco industry. He further explained how humans working in the industries should take control over the entity called “the industry” so that it will stop being a detriment to the health of the public.

A question and answer session followed the panel discussion enabling the participants to ask questions  and clarify issues. Over 100 participants joined the webinar representing all South Asian countries and expressed their enthusiasm on protecting children and youth from industry manipulations in the region.

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