The eighth Conference of Parties of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) ended in Geneva on Saturday, with governments unanimously adopting policies to eliminate the influence of tobacco companies.
Parties also agreed to redouble defences against evolving tobacco industry tactics as well as mandate a study on new tobacco products which pose a threat to public health — particularly to children.
For years, the tobacco industry exploited loopholes and sent representatives to pose as members of the public and media, and stack delegations with tobacco-friendly groups in attempts to delay, weaken, or block progress.
On Saturday, Parties adopted a landmark good governance policy that eliminates these loopholes, shutting out the industry and protecting the treaty from interference.
“The tobacco industry is the single largest barrier to tobacco control policies globally — and these negotiations were no exception,” said Michel Legendre, associate campaign director at Corporate Accountability.
“We applaud the delegates that stood up to the industry and staunchly rejected their rhetoric. It is thanks to them that governments have now adopted precedent-setting measures that will protect millions of people’s lives.”
Parties not only eliminated Big Tobacco’s last entryways into the talks, but also expanded the treaty’s firewall policies that protect public health policy making from the influence of emerging industry tactics.
The adopted policy includes specific language to expose and counteract tactics by companies such as the Philip Morris International-funded foundation, and it called on all institutions to reject any proposed partnership, among other measures.
“This deadly industry may claim it’s turning a new leaf, but we aren’t falling for its latest scam,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, deputy executive director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).
“Big Tobacco tries to confuse, sow doubt, and derail policy with its PR stunts, but governments around the world are rejecting its attempts.”
Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, a delegate for Thailand, said the tobacco industry would stop at nothing to try to undermine the lifesaving measures of the treaty.
“Today, we made great strides to keep the industry where it belongs: outside of the talks and away from public health policy.”
Parties also called on the Secretariat to fulfil its commitment and provide governments with the necessary resources to hold the tobacco industry civilly and criminally liable for its abuses — potentially unveiling a new frontier of tobacco control.
“Soon, Parties will have the tools they need to make Big Tobacco pay,” said Dr Reina Roa, Panama Ministry of Health.
“Liability actions will unlock unlimited potential to transform the way this industry, and other corporations operate globally.”
The decisions adopted by Parties is expected to shape the implementation of the FCTC for the next two years and beyond.
The treaty, which entered into force in 2005, contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures — estimated to save more than 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.