Insulate FCTC from industry interference

Insulate FCTC from industry interference
Central Chronicle, India
4 July 2007

Protecting FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) from tobacco industry interference is most vital. "Tobacco companies are undermining [tobacco control] legislations in many countries" said Dr Douglas Betcher, Head of Tobacco Free Initiative at World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO and its member states were undoubtedly forward-thinking in their adoption of Article 5.3 of the FCTC which obligates Parties to "protect these [public health] policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry" but they are not yet following through with explicit legislations or regulations to enforce it.

Allowing tobacco corporations to influence tobacco control policy violates both the spirit and letter of the FCTC. World Health Assembly resolution 54.18, the FCTC preamble and FCTC articles 12(e) and 20.4(c) provide governments with the support of the international community to stand up to interference from Big Tobacco.

"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."

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.

"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 (Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals) in Kenya.

"Now the integrity of the treaty and the effectiveness of national tobacco control policies based on it, hinge upon the measures Parties are taking to meet their obligations under Article 5.3 of the FCTC" says Gallage Punyawardana Alvis of the Swarna Hansa Foundation, a NATT member from Sri Lanka.

NATT members are urging governments to ensure that protocols and guidelines emerging from COP-II include specific measures to guard against tobacco industry interference and reinforce Article 5.3.

Online at: