The state-owned tobacco enterprise, Libanaise Des Tabacs Et Tombacs (Regie), receives support from senior government officials, in particular from the Speaker of the House, as well as the full support of the Minister of Finance, who accepted a draft law proposal prepared by Regie’s legal department to consider smuggling a misdemeanour. Regie signed an agreement with British American Tobacco (BAT) to produce the Kent and Viceroy brands in Lebanon. BAT’s General Manager, the Middle East and Yemen, said: “At the level of governments, we are working with them to develop a legislative framework that protects consumers and economy alike” and stressed the company’s commitment to “support the efforts of the Lebanese government to combat illegal trade, especially as it affects the activities of companies legitimately licensed to operate within this sector.” This is a clear offer from BAT to help set tobacco control public health policies in Lebanon.
In 2016, Regie launched its Sustainable Development plan, the “Development Vision for a Brighter Tomorrow.” Since then, it has been conducting CSR activities in line with its set priorities. In 2019, this included sending a delegation from the administration team to Turkey to participate in an educational training program, conducting guidance sessions for hundreds of tobacco farmers, and providing training on women’s empowerment to the daughters of tobacco farmers.
Following Regie’s request, within less than a month, the Minister of Finance issued a decree 1/956;(Annex1) to regulate the price of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The head of Regie had previously expressed his hope to locally produce e-cigarettes in Lebanon, while signing an agreement with PMI. By adopting a decree legalising the sale of e-cigarettes, e-waterpipes and IQOS, Lebanon has moved from being a country that bans all forms of e-cigarettes in 2013, to a country that regulates the entry of e-cigarettes in 2015, to a country that regulates prices and makes these products available in the Lebanese market. The Minister of Health also expressed support for a comment from the head of Regie, who said he disagrees with increasing tobacco prices and that any increase only helps smugglers.
Senior government officials endorsed and/or attended tobacco-related functions organized by Regie, including inaugurating projects in villages supported by Regie. In return, many municipalities’ delegations, including deputy heads of municipalities, visit the head of Regie to receive financial grants provided under Regie’s CSR plan.
There is no procedure in place to ensure transparency when the government meets with the tobacco industry. There are no government rules for the disclosure or registration of tobacco industry entities.
There is no publicly available data on senior retired officials taking part in the tobacco industry and the government does not have in place a procedure to prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry. Although the second lady, Randa Berri, does not hold a position in the tobacco business, she hosted an event at Regie’s headquarters in Hadath where daughters of tobacco farmers received certificates for participating in women’s empowerment training sessions.
Lebanon does not have a plan for the implementation of Article 5.3. There is no procedure in place to disclose the government’s interactions with the tobacco industry. The government has not adopted or implemented a code of conduct for public officials in their dealings with the tobacco industry. While the tobacco industry is required to submit information on tobacco production and manufacture for tax purposes, there is no requirement for the industry to submit other information such as market share, marketing expenditures, lobbying, philanthropy and others. There is no publicly available information to show the government has a program or plan to consistently raise awareness on Article 5.3 Guidelines within its departments. Further, the National Tobacco Control tab on the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) website no longer exists; it was replaced by a tab that says, “No Tobacco Control Program.” Unlike the previous page, the current page has no information.
- In line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), further effort should be made to enhance public health policies.
- Tobacco-related CSR activities must be banned.
- Regie must be treated like any other tobacco company. Laws it proposes must not be accepted, as this is a direct intervention in tobacco control policy-making. A “firewall” between the industry and tobacco control policy must be established.
- There must be a procedure in place to disclose records of government interactions with the tobacco industry. A code of conduct should be adopted by the government to guide officials when dealing with the tobacco industry. The MOPH, through its Tobacco Control Program, could take the lead in writing those procedures.
- The tobacco industry should be required to submit information on tobacco production, manufacture, market share, marketing expenditures, revenues and any other activity, including lobbying, philanthropy, and political contributions.
- The government should work on raising awareness within its departments on policies related to FCTC Article 5.3. Similar activities could be coordinated by the MOPH through its National Tobacco Program, civil society and academia.
Learn more about tobacco industry interference in this country.Download a Country Fact Sheet