COP7 decisions to counter tobacco industry interference

Tobacco industry interference was a hot issue from the start of the COP7 deliberations from 7 November through to its conclusion on 12 November. In the official report to the COP, tobacco industry interference was mentioned as the main barrier to the effective implementation of the WHO FCTC at national level by two thirds of the Parties.

The head of the Convention Secretariat, Dr Vera da Costa e Silva in her address said, “… we must be reminded that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interests between the tobacco industry and public health policy.”

The DG of WHO Dr Margaret described the extent of the tobacco industry’s attack on the WHO: “For the past six weeks, nearly every day has seen news stories planted by front groups and lobbyists paid for by the tobacco industry, often directly attacking WHO as irrelevant or the Framework Convention as ineffective.” According to Dr Chan, “The battle lines are drawn,” and she called upon civil society to “out-shout the tobacco industry in getting the real facts and evidence to parliamentarians and the public.”

The President of Sri Lanka knows firsthand the extent of tobacco industry interfered in the country’s legislation. In his address to the COP, he said, “[T]he tobacco industry often distorts and challenges the best scientific knowledge, promotes dishonest arguments that have nothing to do with truth. We know that the industry will try to influence policymakers in many ways, often support petitioners to challenge government legislation and persuade the mass media. This to me is a direct interference in the internal policy matters of any country.”

The COP7 urged Parties to intensify multi-sectoral actions and cooperation to address strategies of the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control. It called on Parties to remain vigilant of tobacco industry efforts to undermine the implementation of WHO FCTC.

The Convention Secretariat has been tasked to continue to promote the use of the Model policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference, developed by members of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, in accordance with Article 5.3.

To ensure Article 5.3 of the FCTC is adhered to, the COP maintained its policy to prevent tobacco industry interference by rejecting the application of the Philippine Tobacco Institute Inc. and Kelab Integrasi Komuniti dan Sosial, a Malaysian vapers group, among others for observer status to the COP.

The Convention Secretariat is also tasked to assist Parties in developing strategies to counter tobacco industry interference in bilateral, regional and global relations to promote global awareness of Article 5.3.