No govt sponsorship for pvt tobacco event: HC

Court order goes in favour of petitioners, tobacco board’s logo goes off event website.


Sonal Matharu | October 6, 2010

Following a court order, the Tobacco Board of India (TBI) has finally taken its logo off the website of a private tobacco promotional event which is being held in Bangalore.

Karnataka High Court passed an order on September 17 asking TBI, a department under the commerce and industry ministry, to abstain from participating in the three-day event called the Global Tobacco Networking Forum (GTNF), organised by Tobacco Reporter, a cigarettes and tobacco magazine for global tobacco industry.

A public interest litigation was filed by Institute of Public Health (IPH), Bangalore, after they spotted the logo of TBI under the sponsors’ list on the GTNF website. India became a signatory of World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2003. Under its guidelines no government body can partner with tobacco industry because of a conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and the public health programmes.

The Karnataka High Court bench comprising Justice Shailendra Kumar noted in its order, “The board (TBI) keeping company with them (cigarette manufacturers of leading brands across the world) itself may amount to conveying a message that the board is in league with such companies in promoting their products which is most undesirable.”

However, TBI’s logo appeared on the event website even after the court intervened. On October 1, IPH wrote an email to the event organisers asking them to follow the court order, following which, the logo was removed from the hospitality and sponsors segment two days before the event started.

“The court asked TBI to withdraw any kind of support, monetary and non-monetary, from the event. It also added that if TBI has already given money for the event, it should get it back,” said Upendra Bhojani, public health researcher, IPH.

Through RTI applications IPH found out that TBI is investing Rs 3,26,620 on the participants. GTNF is scheduled to be held from 4th to 8th October and will see participation from private tobacco companies.

Article 5.3 of the WHO convention states that the member countries must protect all public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry and that they should not accept, support or endorse partnerships with tobacco industry.

In India, over nine lakh people die of tobacco related illnesses a year and tobacco is the most preventable cause of most chronic diseases. In a country where over 57% of men and 11% of women consume some form of tobacco, it has been estimated that there will be one million deaths due to tobacco consumption.



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