(AMSTERDAM) Today the Network for the Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT), comprised of more than 100 organizations from 50 countries nominated the Dutch outgoing government for the “Marlboro Man” award -- a less-than-prestigious prize given to a government that is furthering Big Tobacco’s interests and putting profit over people.
NATT is calling on the Netherlands to fulfill its obligations under international law and safeguard its public health policies against tobacco industry interference. New elections are coming up in the Netherlands and a new policy can be issued within months. The nomination can therefore be seen as a strong incentive to change an ineffective policy into an effective health policy.
"The Netherlands used to a be a leader in tobacco control," said Gigi Kellett, Director of Corporate Accountability International's Campaign to Challenge Big Tobacco, and chair of NATT, "but now it's cozy relationship with Big Tobacco is causing it to slip backwards, endangering the health of the Dutch people."
Edith Schippers, the Netherlands' current Minister of Health, Welfare, and Sport, rolled back life-saving, internationally-sanctioned tobacco control policies. Studies show that one of the policies Ms. Schippers' office rolled back -- providing free cessation medication as part of its health care package -- could have compelled 144,000 current smokers to quit. This and other policies that her office revoked, such as smoke-free legislation in bars and clubs, funding for campaigns to warn about the dangers of tobacco, and funding of the world renowned national centre on tobacco control, STIVORO, also would have ensured the Dutch government to meet its international obligations under the global tobacco treaty, formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). This treaty enshrines effective public health and corporate accountability initiatives assembled from across the globe into international law.
Ms. Schippers ties to the tobacco industry are well-documented, and tobacco industry lobbyists publicly stated that she is a champion of its interests. Before her post in the ministry, Ms. Schippers was a lobbyist for the national employers' federation VNO NCW, which internal tobacco industry documents show was a very important ally when it campaigned against the 2002 Tobacco Control Act.
In her position as Minister of Health, Welfare, and Sport, her office grants tobacco industry lobbyists meetings while ignoring doctors and academics concerned with public health policies. This is a clear violation of an important requirement under Article 5.3 of the treaty, which states that "in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law." Article 5.3 enshrines the principle that the tobacco industry has an irreconcilable conflict of interest with public health. But not only Ms. Schippers within the government has a strong relationship with the tobacco industry. Minister of Defense, Mr Hillen, used to be an advisor of the Tobacco Industry when he was a member of the Dutch Senate, but he neglected to mention this in his résumé.
"We're calling for the present Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and for all political parties who now present their plans for the future Netherlands to fulfill the Dutch obligations under Article 5.3 of the global tobacco treaty and send a clear message to the Dutch people that its priority is protecting public health, not the profits of the deadliest industry on the planet," said John Stewart, Senior Organizer with Corporate Accountability International.
NATT is recommending that the present and future Dutch governments implement safeguards against tobacco industry interference in public health policies that follow Article 5.3 Guidelines, which include codes of conduct for government employees to avoid conflicts of interest, policies limiting tobacco industry interactions with government activities, and policies that put in place public disclosure measures regarding interactions with the tobacco industry and its proxies.
Official "winners" of the Marlboro Man Awards will be announced on World No Tobacco Day, May 31st whose theme this year is "Intimidation: Stop Tobacco Industry Interference."
Corporate Accountability International, formerly Infact, is a membership organization that protects people by waging and winning campaigns challenging irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the world. For nearly 35 years, the organization has compelled corporations-like Nestlé, General Electric and Philip Morris/Altria-to halt a range of abuses. Corporate Accountability is an NGO in Official Relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) includes more than 100 NGOs from more than 50 countries working for a strong, enforceable Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Advocates in the Netherlands are asking for your signature on a new petition. They are calling for Prime Minister Mark Rutte to stop partnering with the tobacco industry and hold the tobacco industry accountable for the preventable deaths in Netherlands and around the world. To read more and sign the petition, go to http://hollandsmokefree.nl/