The coronavirus pandemic has got us all concerned about the health of those around and far from us.
In times like these, people expect their governments to work towards preventing devastating results. Political decisions should always be made with the public interest at their heart, especially when it comes to health.
This week, we have been alarmed over another major public health issue as new, disturbing reports suggest undue influence by powerful private interests.
Smoking claims lives of over 8 million people around the world annually, and the illicit trade in cigarettes is a major part of the problem. Availability of contraband cigarettes contributes to higher addiction rates, especially among lower-income populations, fuelling a human-made tobacco epidemic.
New investigations from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project show that the tobacco industry has been undermining the global efforts to curb the illicit trade in cigarettes through bribery, secret lobbying and regulatory capture.
Reports detailing how the tobacco industry turned an EU process intended to track and trace illicit cigarettes to their own advantage are especially troubling, as governments elsewhere are reportedly planning to replicate the flawed EU system.
The tobacco black market deprives governments of an estimated US$40 billion in tax revenue each year. These are billions that should be flowing into healthcare funds to prevent fatalities caused by cigarette addiction.
We hope you are staying healthy and following the precautions advised by the World Health Organization and other health authorities. If we are diligent and show solidarity with one another, we can slow down the virus.
Fortunately, solutions to prevent undue influence over policy decisions that affect our lives are also known, mandatory lobbying registers are one of them – and a powerful one.
What do you think? Let us know @anticorruption.