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Governments wary of new products as tobacco talks close

At the end of the eighth session of the global tobacco treaty (WHO- FCTC) negotiations on Saturday, October 6, 2018, governments unanimously adopted policies that eliminate loopholes Big Tobacco allegedly use to gain access to the talks, redouble defenses against evolving industry tactics, and mandate a study on new tobacco products, which are said to pose a threat to public health – particularly to children.

Cigarettes are said to have a significant impact on the environment, not just health

Big Tobacco allegedly attempted to undermine negotiations by stacking government delegations, commandeering industry front groups, lobbying Parties, posing as the public and employing other means to interfere with policies that would save lives and reduce tobacco consumption.

Parties however adopted a good governance policy that eliminates the 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 were said to have eliminated Big Tobacco’s last entryways into the talks, as well as 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 like the Philip Morris International-funded foundation, and it called on all institutions to reject any proposed partnership, among other measures.

“This 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.”

“Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to try to undermine the lifesaving measures of the treaty,” said Dr. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, a delegate for Thailand. “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 fulfill 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.”

Casting out the tobacco industry could provide precedent for insulating other policy making spaces, say observers, saying it includes corporations that drive environmental and public health harms.

They believe that decisions adopted by Parties will 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.

Key outcomes from the talks included:

  • Eliminating public badge and delegate loophole exploited by the industry.
  • Reaffirming Article 5.3 guidelines, safeguarding the treaty from emerging industry tactics and calling for all institutions to reject partnerships with industry-funded groups.
  • Calling for the advancement of liability in Article 19.
  • Recommending a study on heat-not-burn products and declaring that the FCTC guidelines apply to these novel and emerging products.
  • Adopting a global strategy for tobacco reduction.

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