Unnecessary interaction with tobacco industry

According to the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guideline, “Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products” [Recommendation 2.1][1] and “Parties should not award contracts for carrying out any work related to setting and implementing public health policies with respect to tobacco control to candidates or tenderers who have conflicts of interest with established tobacco control policies” [Recommendation 4.3].[2]

Unnecessary interactions occur when, for example, top level government officials attend social functions hosted by tobacco companies or when the government accepts offers of assistance or enters into partnership with the tobacco industry. Some examples of these interactions can be found below:


In 2019, the Minister of Information allowed a courtesy visit from Mr. Jianqiang Wu, Chairman of China Huaxin Group Limited to discuss a tobacco farming project worth USD 2 billion of investment.[3] 


In 2018, publicly available evidence showed four ministries have met with / fostered relations with the tobacco companies. These ministries have sent top-level representatives to events that were sponsored and organized by tobacco companies, and even promoted the events. The Minister of Social Affairs granted the “Padmamitra Award 2018” to Sampoerna Sustainable Program for their CSR activities through disaster alerts and rapid response approach. [4]

The Minister of Industry and the Minister of Labor have been photographed together with the President of Sampoerna while wearing jackets bearing Sampoerna’s logo. The Minister of Labor also publicly stated that the tobacco industry is an important financial source for economic resilience in the face of global competition.

The Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises attended an event by Sampoerna Entrepreneurship Training Center (SETC) in Bali, where the minister publicly encouraged and praised Sampoerna for promoting entrepreneurship.

In 2019, there were more incidents of unnecessary interactions documented between government ministries and the tobacco industry.

The Head of the Executive Office of the President (KSP) while wearing a Djarum Badminton t-shirt visited Djarum’s office in response to Djarum Foundation’s Program Director for Sports report on the accusation of child exploitation in the Djarum badminton audition.

The Minister of Finance granted “the most tax-friendly corporation” to Sampoerna while the Minister of Industry extended appreciation to Sampoerna Retail Community (SRC) at the 11th SRC Anniversary for their concern and contribution to the country’s national and cultural history, especially concerning the kretek cigarette industry.

The Director General of the Ministry of Industry accepted assistance from Sampoerna to enforce PP 109/2012 by campaigning of “Preventing Children’s Access to Purchase Cigarettes” (PAPRA) implemented in partnership with SCR outlets.

The Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education signed a memorandum of agreement (MOU) with Sampoerna on research and development (R & D) of value-added tobacco products. Following the MOU, the ministry held a joint workshop with the United States-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) on the “1st US-ABC Indonesia Innovation Series SME Workshop” in Bali sponsored by Sampoerna and JUUL. Another collaborative work between Sampoerna and the Center for Science and Technology under the Ministry of Research and Technology on “Indonesia Innovation for SME Workshop and Innovation Talks” was conducted two months later.

Lao PDR:

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC) has signed an MOU with the tobacco industry to enforce smuggling control and receive incentives for the enforcement that is still effective to date. The MOIC collects information on illicit tobacco products in the domestic market in cooperation with the tobacco industry and is not shared routinely with other authorities such as the MOH.”[5]

Through this MOU and the existence of the Investment License Agreement (ILA) with Lao Tobacco Company/Imperial Tobacco Group interactions with the tobacco industry are continuously facilitated.


In 2018, the Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad received the US-ASEAN Business Council that included two PMI executives in his office. The Johor Director of Royal Customs officiated the opening ceremony of BAT’s new factory in Johor together with BAT’s Managing Director. [6]

In 2019, the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry attended the AMCHAM year-end signature event, the Thanksgiving and MY AMCHAM CARES celebrations.[7] Philip Morris Malaysia was among the main sponsors of the event.


There are no publicly available reports of government officials attending social functions of the TI. However, EUROCHAM Myanmar has an anti-Illicit Trade Group that enlists BAT as a member. The objective of this group is “Coordinate regular consultation meetings between the group and the authorized government officials to develop a shared understanding of challenges and issues.”


In November 2018, senior officials, including a member of the House of Representatives and a Provincial Governor attended the inauguration of Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC)’s solar power plant inside the manufacturing facility at the Fist Philippine Industrial Park in Tanauan, Batangas.

The Senate President and the 2nd District Representative for South Cotobato were photographed with PMFTC executives on a trip abroad. In the photos were the Manager of the Fiscal and Government Relations of PMFTC and PMFTC lawyer. The photos were posted on the Facebook page of the District Representative on April 2018.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has signed a memorandum of agreement with PMFTC to collaborate on a nationwide “youth wellness and healthy lifestyle program”.


Since the government owns the Thailand Authority of Thailand (TAOT, formerly Thai Tobacco Monopoly, (TTM), there are regular meetings (each trimester or 4 times a year) between TAOT and senior officers from the Ministry of Finance. [10]

On 5 March 2019, TAOT in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance organized a meeting and press conference on the result of the suppression of illegal cigarettes (smuggling) in the southern region of Thailand.[11]

On 25 September 2019, the Prime Minister, during his mission at the 74th UN General Assembly in New York, together with high level officers, attended a dinner reception organized by US-ABC where Philip Morris International (PMI) is one of the sponsors.[12]

On 7 October 2019, US-ABC hosted a luncheon in honor of the newly-appointed Ambassador of Thailand to the United States. PMI was one of the sponsors of the luncheon.[13]


There a lot of evidence that document top level officials attending social functions organized by the tobacco industry; these include the Vice President of the National Assembly (NA)’s meeting with the President of Philip Morris International (South and Southeast Asia) where PMI promoted its new so-called ‘less harmful tobacco products’ as an investment to Vietnam. Several deputy ministers including the from trade and industry, National Assembly members and People’s Committee representatives have also attended and participated in events organized by or with the tobacco industry.  The government has also accepted assistance from the tobacco industry for its tobacco control activities such as the compulsory fund collection from tobacco manufacturers for control of illicit trade. [14]

In 2019, anniversary celebrations of tobacco companies have provided a convenient opportunity for the industry to invite and interact with high-level government officials. In June 2019, Vietnam Tobacco Association celebrated its 30th anniversary which was attended by the Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade (MOIT). [15]

In August, the Saigon Tobacco Company celebrated its 90th founding anniversary and received First-class Labor Medal. The ceremony was attended by a member of the Central Communist Party, Deputy Minister of MOIT, Permanent Deputy Secretary of the Central Business Party Committee, Head of Management Board of Industrial Zones of Ho Chi Minh, and representatives from different ministries, departments, and local authorities. .[16]

Collaboration between the government and tobacco companies on anti-smuggling activities provided continuing opportunities for unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry.  In September, the Coast Guard Region Command 1 in Hai Phong destroyed 67,500 packs of smuggled cigarettes bearing the trademark “ESSE” manufactured by KT&G. The destruction event was attended by Vietnam Tobacco Association, Department of Finance and 389 Steering Committee of Hai Phong City. [17]


[1] Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, https://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf, page 4.
[2] Ibid, page 5.
[3] http://www.akp.gov.kh/kh/post/detail/22088
[4] Indonesia – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/2WakwRD
[5] Convention Secretariat. Needs assessment for implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Lao PDR. February 2015. https://bit.ly/3bZdpkZ
[6] Malaysia – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/3bQptpq
[7] AMCHAM Thanksgiving and AMCHAM cares celebration 2019. November 25, 2019 https://amcham.com.my/2019/11/26/amcham-thanksgiving-my-amcham-cares-celebration-2019/
[8] Myanmar – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/2YhnzKp
[9] Philippines – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/2WhfXoS
[10] Thailand – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/3bP6onD
[11] Manager Online, 5 March 2019. The Tobacco Authority of Thailand announced the results of the suppression of smuggled cigarettes in the southern region. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/36dKnwG (accessed on 10 May 2020)
[12] US ASEAN Business Council. Press Release. 25 September 2019.  https://www.usasean.org/press-release/2019/09/25/us-abc-and-us-chamber-commerce-convene-us-business-leaders-honor-thai-prime  Accessed on 6 June 2020
[13] US-ABC website. Thailand 7 October 2019 https://www.usasean.org/countries/thailand
[14] Vietnam – country summary, Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019. https://bit.ly/2WdGsv0
[15] https://thanhtra.com.vn/kinh-te/lao-dong-viec-lam/Hiep-hoi-Thuoc-la-Viet-Nam-ky-niem-30-nam-thanh-lap-150240.html
[16] 90 years of Saigon Tobacco: The journey of writing a brand name http://tapchicongthuong.vn/bai-viet/90-nam-thuoc-la-sai-gon-hanh-trinh-viet-ten-mot-thuong-hieu-64665.htm
[17] http://thuonghieuvaphapluat.vn/hai-phong-tieu-huy-675000-bao-thuoc-la-ngoai-nhap-lau-d25722.html