The tobacco industry participates in policy development indirectly through the national business association, “Atakemen.” Four transnational tobacco companies pay annual fees to the association, using it as a lobbying force to block public health initiatives at the national policy level. For example, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had to undertake a special regulatory analysis review (RAR) in preparation for advocacy related to a new Health Act. The RAR must be approved by “Atakemen” and the MOH must discuss the content with every business association that applies to provide expert comment. Interventions from the association made advocacy by health professionals extremely difficult, intense and sometimes almost impossible.
CSR activities by tobacco companies are allowed in Kazakhstan and even encouraged by the special CSR award, “Paryz,” established by the President of Kazakhstan in 2008. The industry’s CSR activities are often recognized by “Paryz” and this encourages NGO’s to openly receive sponsorship from the tobacco industry. The charity NGO “Degdar” is known to have a long-term partnership with Japan Tobacco International (JTI). There are no publicly available official records of any direct endorsement, support or partnerships between the tobacco industry and government agencies.
There are no known timeline benefits for implementation or postponement of national tobacco control laws, but the industry did succeed in limiting increases in excise taxes, the single most effective tobacco control intervention. The tobacco industry lobbied the Eurasia Customs Union, which unifies five countries (Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan), for low excise taxes. A Eurasia Customs Union agreement signed on December 24, 2019 states that a tax of only €35 per thousand sticks will be achieved in 2024 and increases of more than 20% are not allowed, delivering significant benefits to the tobacco industry.
Unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry happens at a senior level through cultural and musical activities of the “Degdar” charity fund, which is sponsored by JTI. This may also provide direct access to key decision-makers at the government and Parliament level. Other tobacco industry interaction involves a leading scientific institution that openly received sponsorship from PMI to block heated tobacco product advocacy in the Health Act.
The WHO World Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provisions and FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines especially are neglected in Kazakhstan. As a result, there is no official or informal regulation to disclose meetings/interactions with the tobacco industry or rules for the disclosure or registration of tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations and individuals acting on their behalf, including lobbyists. Meeting with the tobacco industry is a norm in Kazakhstan and in some cases even required by law (through the Business Act).
FCTC provisions and Article 5.3 Guidelines especially are neglected in Kazakhstan. For example, the former head of the “Atameken” business association currently works as an MP and leader of the “Akzhol” political party in Mazhilis. He regularly attempts to influence and weaken tobacco control without disclosing the conflict of interest.
As Article 5.3 Guidelines are neglected in Kazakhstan, no preventive measures have been put in place by the government and in parliament.
- Develop and implement a special national rule or code to implement Article 5.3 Guidelines to stop tobacco industry collaboration with senior level politicians. The code should provide transparent procedures for any tobacco industry interaction to all government officials and politicians and public academic institutions, including scientists.
- Ban all forms of tobacco-related CSR activities.
- Introduce and expand an awareness campaign on Article 5.3 Guidelines at a senior political level and for media.
- Continue collecting and disclosing records of all tobacco industry interference.
Learn more about tobacco industry interference in this country.Download a Country Fact Sheet