Coinciding with this year’s World No Tobacco Day (May 31), the Polish Institute of Public Affairs organised a conference addressed at decision-makers and entitled “Protecting public interest from the influences of the tobacco industry.”
This was the first conference in Poland where the prevailing conflict of interest between the industry and the public health was presented in such an overt fashion. Besides emphasising the sizable impact that the tobacco lobby has in Poland, speakers at the conference also provided a number of examples of how effective the tobacco lobbying is proving to be in Poland. Among the cases highlighted, one stood out: the country’s Minister of Health refusal to pass an updated ordinance introducing pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.
The overwhelming health arguments showcased during the conference clashed with reports provided by the tobacco industry sustaining that the introduction of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs will have disastrous effects in tobacco sales – the industry claims it could lose up to €50 million in earnings. Over the course of the gathering, the debate seemed to systematically boil down into an evident clash between big tobacco players and the protection of everyone’s health.
The conference left little doubt about the huge among of work still needed to keep raising awareness among officials and policy-makers alike of their accountability to art. 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The build-up and adoption of a sound public health policy in Poland will not be a reality until key policy-makers distance themselves from the corporative interests of the tobacco industry.