In April 2019, the Central Board for the Control of Smoking and Consumption of Tobacco Products (National Tobacco Control Board) was reconstituted by the government under the National Tobacco Control Law of 2006. Although there are no representatives from the tobacco industry on the Board, the government usually considers proposals from the tobacco industry in setting or implementing public health policies in relation to tobacco control. In 2019, tobacco companies submitted proposals for tobacco tax reform to the Internal Revenue Department (IRD), Ministry of Planning and Finance (MOPF) and Parliamentarians. These offices acknowledged receipt of the tobacco companies’ proposals and indicated that suggestions will be included in the Union Tax Bill for consideration.
Local cigarette company Myanmar Kokang Company Ltd. (MMK Cigarette Factory) sponsored a mini-marathon and a public walking events.
Despite prohibitions on tobacco industry-sponsored CSR activities and tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships (TAPS) in the Control of Smoking and Consumption of Tobacco Product Law, JTI’s project to provide drinking water for refugees in Kayin State is still ongoing.
For the second and third year implementation of pictorial health warnings (PHW), the second picture (rotation) should appear on cigarette packs from December 2017 to November 30, 2018, while the third picture should appear on tobacco products from December 2018 to November 30, 2019. To date, not all tobacco products carry the required pictures and old images on packs can still be found on the market. The government has taken no action.
The Union Tax Law of 2019 gave a tax exemption to the tobacco industry for cheroots, cigars and raw tobacco if their annual production cost did not exceed MMK 20 million (kyats).
The government is open and welcoming to foreign investment, including from BAT, JTI and Burma Tobacco Trading Co.
There are no publicly available reports of government officials attending tobacco industry social functions. However, BAT is a member of the EUROCHAM Myanmar anti-Illicit trade group. The objective of this group is to “coordinate regular consultation meetings between the group and authorized government officials to develop a shared understanding of challenges and issues.” In 2019, EUROCHAM teamed up with TRACIT, a PMI-funded group, on illicit trade issues in Myanmar.
There is no mechanism or rule for disclosure of meetings with the tobacco industry. The Ministry of Health and Sports is working on this now.
While the Special Commercial Tax law requires all facilities and distribution chains to register, it does not cover affiliated organizations and individuals, including lobbyists, acting on the tobacco industry’s behalf.
The government does not prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests. While there are no publicly available records, retired senior government officials are known to have joined the tobacco industry.
The Anticorruption Code of Ethics for Companies and Body Corporates is not specifically designed for the tobacco industry, but covers all companies and corporate bodies incorporated within the Republic of the Union of Myanmar when making business deals with ministries or government organizations, and companies or organizations in the private sector. The government does not require reports on market share, marketing expenditures, revenues or any other activity, including lobbying, philanthropy, political contributions and all other activities. There are no specific guidelines compliant with WHO FCTC Art. 5.3 for departments dealing with the tobacco industry, such as the Internal Revenue Department for tax collection.
The Myanmar Anti-Corruption Commission issued a notification (No. 14 /2018) on the need for all businesses to establish a strong code of ethics to prevent corruption.
- Enforcement of CSR and TAPS bans should be upheld in compliance with national laws.
- The tobacco industry should be penalized for non-compliance with tobacco control laws, such as non-application of pictorial health warning on packs.
- To promote transparency, there must be a procedure to guide all officials in their interaction with the tobacco industry and its representatives, based on WHO FCTC Article 5.3. Currently only the Ministry of Health and Sports has such guidance.
- There must be a program to raise awareness on Article. 5.3 to guide all government departments, especially those with close dealings with tobacco industry.
- The tobacco industry must be required to provide information about its business, including what it spends on marketing and philanthropy.
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