148 Nations meet as Parties to Global Tobacco Treaty at COP-II

148 Nations meet as Parties to Global Tobacco Treaty at COP-II
2 July 2007

Governments urged to strengthen measures to prevent tobacco industry interference at COP-II

BANGKOK: The global tobacco treaty's second Conference of the Parties (COP2), commenced on last Friday (30 June), where governments met to advance the critical work of implementing the world's first corporate accountability treaty. Formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the treaty is designed to reverse the global tobacco epidemic, which is projected to claim 10 million lives per year by 2030, primarily in the Global South.

Developing countries that championed a strong, enforceable treaty throughout negotiations are expected to push for rigorous enforcement and to stand firm in their resistance to powerful tobacco industry interference. Items on the agenda for the meeting include: tobacco smuggling, protection from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Ongoing funding and protection of health policy from interference by tobacco corporations will also be addressed.

"Big Tobacco's interference in health policy is one of the greatest threats to the treaty's implementation and enforcement. Philip Morris/Altria, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco (JT) use their political influence to weaken, delay and defeat tobacco control legislation around the world," explains Corporate Accountability International's Kathryn Mulvey. "While the industry claims to have changed its ways, it continues to use sophisticated methods to undermine meaningful legislation."

Thailand helped to set the pace for strong enforcement of the global tobacco treaty when the government closed the point-of-sale loophole in its tobacco advertising ban in 2005, and then rigorously enforced the policy change. Thai officials have evidence that Philip Morris/Altria continued paying 7-Eleven convenience stores to put up special displays in designated locations even after the loophole was closed. Health officials remained vigilant and succeeded in having the ads removed.

Members of the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnational (NATT) are urging governments to include specific measures to guard against tobacco industry interference in the protocols and guidelines that emerge from COP2. Decisions made in Bangkok will guide effective implementation of the treaty at the global and national levels, and help Parties overcome tobacco industry opposition.

"In Kenya, our government was successful in issuing a ban on public smoking and requiring larger health warnings on cigarette packets, but BAT's subsidiary complained the rules were untenable on the grounds that they were not consulted. Then the tobacco giant sued the government in an attempt to prevent the regulations from taking effect," says Emma Wanyonyi of Consumers Information Network, a member of NATT in Kenya. "We need stronger, more explicit measures to ensure that our public health policies and their implementation are protected from tobacco industry interference."
NATT members have documented cases of Philip Morris/Altria and British American Tobacco interfering in treaty ratification and implementation across the globe. However, NGOs and health officials remain optimistic about the treaty's enforcement and implementation.

"More than 145 countries, including over 80% of the world's population, have committed to the obligations of the global tobacco treaty," says Gallage Punyawardana Alvis of the Swarna Hansa Foundation, a NATT member from Sri Lanka. "We are confident that the second Conference of the Parties will set up structures to fulfill these commitments, without interference from the tobacco industry or countries that have not ratified the treaty."

Published in:

2 July 2007: Asian Tribune: http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/6364

3 July 2007: The Seoul Times: http://theseoultimes.com/ST/?url=/ST/db/read.php?idx=5471