Governments make ‘concrete’ progress in Seoul as tobacco conference ends

The tobacco industry representatives allegedly tried to infiltrate the talks.

The fifth session of Conference of Parties (COP5) to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control came to an end, Saturday, with governments making ‘concrete’ progress despite tobacco industry’s underhand tactics.

The week long negotiation was reportedly dogged with ploys by tobacco industries to infiltrate government delegations and undermine discussions.

The global organisation treaty prohibits tobacco industries from interfering in public health policy.

Standing up to big tobacco

On the second day of the conference, parties to the treaty barred tobacco companies and their representatives from attending committee meetings.

Earlier, civil society groups had exposed tobacco industry lobbyists who wore public badges to infiltrate into committee meetings.

John Stewart, Campaign Director, Challenge Big Tobacco, applauded delegates for standing up to tobacco industry’s antics and “showing them the door.”

“The tobacco industry blatantly obstructed progress during negotiations by co-opting governments and maneuvering official seats on to delegations,” Mr. Stewart said. “Its disregard for the treaty was on full display from the halls of the conference center to front group press conferences.”

Last Thursday, the Kenyan delegation alleged interference from tobacco corporations in their country.

The delegates said that BAT Kenya and three other tobacco companies wrote to the Kenyan Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to complain about the delegation’s deviation from “agreed positions.”

“The Kenyan delegation was doing its job to advocate on behalf of public health and strengthen the treaty’s lifesaving measures,” said Sam Ochieng, Executive Director of the Consumer Information Network in Kenya.

“This intimidation tactic shows us that the tobacco industry is doing everything to frustrate the adoption of life-saving provisions of the treaty.

“This ploy to get governments to soft-pedal on critical provisions of the FCTC is particularly worrisome as the industry’s ploys to get government representatives to soft pedal on critical provisions of the FCTC,” Mr. Ochieng said.

In another instance, the delegation from Zambia included the CEO of the Tobacco Association of Zambia, an affiliate of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA).

“We are not very comfortable with the infiltration of the talks by tobacco industry front men doing everything to frustrate the adoption of life-saving provisions of the treaty,” Philip Jakpor, Spokesperson for the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) Africa, said.

“Particularly worrisome is the presence of ITGA allies in the Zambian delegation and industry ploy to get the Kenyan representatives to soft pedal on critical provisions of the FCTC,” Mr. Jakpor added.

At the end of negotiations, Parties adopted measures that when fully implemented will save 200 million lives by 2050.

Countries took first steps to hold the tobacco industry liable for its abuses as well as adopting a set of guiding principles and recommendations that provide a solid basis for better tobacco tax policies around the world.

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