As it stands, Solomon Islands has not maintained direct involvement or participation from the tobacco industry with regards to policy development or implementation. In spite of this, the tobacco industry seems to have a strong foothold in policy-making through its constant lobbying with the government.
It is interesting to note that SITC-BAT is advancing its influence and leverage by sponsoring and aiding politicians in their constituency projects. The Ministry of Finance and Treasury Director confirmed that in 2019, they sponsored 100,000 SBD towards farmers’ tool and seedlings to North East Guadalcanal constituency and another 100,000 SBD towards a water supply project in the Auki Langalanga constituency. There is an urgent need to de-normalize and regulate activities described by the industry as socially responsible.
The tobacco industry has free access to any government line ministries, especially the ones that are of interest and value to them. Until the current Tobacco Control Act undergoes review to address this, it will remain a challenge and a problem for some time to come. The weak enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act stems from the lack of financial backing, commitment, political will and prioritization, among other issues. It has left the tobacco industry much room to continue to take advantage.
A lot of high-ranking officials have not been fully aware of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and Article 5.3. This had allowed the tobacco industry direct access to senior officials. On a positive note, the new and current Minister of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) began to cut all connections made with the industry after he was briefed on Article 5.3.
It is clear that all those working within all branches of government do not hold the tobacco industry accountable. Records of meetings and interaction of government officials with the tobacco industry are not accessible to the public. There is a need for clear policies and guidelines on avoidance of conflicts of interest for government officials, employees and consultants.
Solomon Islands Political Party Integrity Bill of 2014, Section 57 made a provision for the disclosure of campaign funds post-election, but it does not cover nor prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to political parties, candidates or campaigns. the Bill also does not seek full disclosure of such contributions during or prior to election. Nearly all government ministers and parliamentarians have had projects funded by the tobacco industry.
On the other hand, there has been no record of current government officials and relatives holding position in tobacco business.
The current Tobacco Control Act does not have any provision to do with industry interference. In the current undertaking championed by the MHMS, a comprehensive drafting instruction is underway to review the Act, under Area 14 – Industry interference, the MHMS realized that the tobacco industry uses economic power, marketing and lobbying to discredit research and influence decision-makers to propagate the sale and distribution of tobacco products. The current review will make a provision for inclusion of WHO FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines to be part of the structural formation of the Tobacco Control Act.
- Raise awareness of the WHO FCTC and specifically Article 5.3 within the whole of government.
- Establish a government taskforce to oversee implementation of Article 5.3, under the MHMS.
- Establish an overarching national standard guideline procedure for transparency when government officials interact with the industry.
- Prohibit and regulate tobacco industry contributions to politicians.
- Prohibit all tobacco-related CSR donations, sponsorship and funding assistance.
Learn more about tobacco industry interference in this country.Download a Country Fact Sheet