WHO Conference Shuts Out Tobacco Industry Representatives

Delegates attending the Sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO – FCTC, in Moscow, have taken a decisive and precedent-setting actions to protect the meetings from infiltration by the tobacco industry.

The delegates, Tuesday, adopted powerful guidelines on taxation – recognised as one of the most effective methods in reducing tobacco consumption.

Parties commenced the meeting by rejecting INTERPOL’s application to observe the treaty because of its financial ties to the tobacco industry and ejected tobacco industry representatives from the proceedings. These actions paved the way for the swift adoption of guidelines on taxation by the committee.

Once approved by the full body later this week, these guidelines will provide a road map for the implementation of live-saving tax policy around the globe.

John Stewart, Challenge Big Tobacco campaign director at Corporate Accountability International, described the meeting as “a huge victory for public health.”

“With the tobacco industry out of the room, Parties were able to advance game-changing policy that will curb consumption and save lives,” said Mr. Stewart.

Parties adopted the taxation guidelines despite immense industry manipulation and interference. The day before the meetings even began, the International Tax and Investment Center – an industry funded front group – organised an event to lobby finance ministers to oppose the life-saving taxation measures.

In previous treaty meetings, tobacco industry infiltration had been a serious problem. Big Tobacco’s representatives are notorious for disseminating misinformation and intimidating delegates.

At one point during a negotiating round of the Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade of Tobacco, Corporate Accountability International determined that more than 80 percent of the people in the public gallery were connected to the tobacco industry.

“Kudos to delegates attending the treaty meetings for identifying tobacco industry interference as an obstacle that must be stamped out and kicking the industry from the talks,” said Philip Jakpor, Head of Media at Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

“We also applaud their decision to step up work to push the burden of tobacco harms back to the tobacco industry through taxation. This is the way to go.”

In a 2012 WHO report on the progress of the treaty’s implementation, a majority of parties reported industry interference as a primary obstacle to success.

In response to industry aggression, an increasing number of countries are implementing a firewall strategy, known as Article 5.3, to protect health policy making from Big Tobacco’s influence.

On Wednesday, delegates are expected to adopt policies to accelerate the implementation of this directive.

The global tobacco treaty, formally known as the World Health Organisation, WHO, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), came into force in 2005. To date, 178 countries and the European Union have ratified the treaty, making it the one of the most widely embraced and rapidly adopted in history.

It contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures— estimated to save 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.

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