A new consumer advocacy group will take up the cause of smokers’ rights in Asia.
Factasia.org (www.factasia.org) is an independent, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization formed to
- represent the rights of smokers at government level
- protect the interests of adults who choose to smoke or consume tobacco
- provide independent and unbiased data on the issues surrounding smoking in Asia.
Factasia.org does not work for the tobacco industry, although it aims to lobby on behalf of the millions of growers, distributors and retailers throughout the region whose livelihoods are under threat from bad legislation and excessive taxation. The organization will also champion the interests of the hospitality sector, which is struggling with the demands placed on it by smoking bans.
The founders of Factasia.org are both long-term residents in the region. Heneage (“H”) Mitchell has been in the tobacco industry for more than a dozen years, and was until recently managing editor of one of the industry’s leading trade publications. John Boley is a journalist with considerable marketing and PR experience and has experience in numerous consumer-related campaigns and issues.
Top priority for Factasia.org will be to publicize the negative effect of excessive taxation on tobacco products, which is a major factor in the growth of the market for illicit and counterfeit products throughout Asia.
Another priority is to draw attention to the way in which smokers’ rights are being curbed with proposed smoking bans in several countries that go far beyond what is reasonable for the protection of non-smokers and which constitute “persecution” of smokers, according to Mitchell.
“Smokers have rights and votes, and while we approve of reasonable regulation of smoking, we believe in many Asian countries this is turning into an infringement of civil liberty, given that smoking remains entirely a lawful activity,” says Mitchell.
“We do not promote smoking,” adds Boley, who is a nonsmoker. “But we call for reasoned and informed debate about controls of tobacco products and their use among adults. We are also campaigning for more effective prevention of underage smoking and we want to work with law enforcement agencies on better ways to stop the spread of illicit and counterfeit products, which are not only dangerous to users but bad economics for legislators.”
Factasia.org, which is registered in Hong Kong, believes lawmakers could use more facts and less emotion when drafting regulations concerning the use of tobacco products. Factasia.org will collect signatures via its website for use in campaigns and petitions on specific issues and to lobby politicians in countries from India to Japan.
“The more supporters we have, the more effective our lobbying can be,” says Mitchell. “I urge everyone who recognizes that smokers still have rights, including industry stakeholders, to visit our website at www.factasia.org and sign up today.”