FCTC Regulations on the Need to Protect Public Health Policies from Tobacco Industry Interference

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Background

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is an international treaty that aims to reduce the demand and supply of tobacco, despite the continuing efforts of the global tobacco industry to maintain the huge profits it makes from its addictive products.1

Two years after the FCTC was agreed, negotiations for the development of a supplementary international treaty began, drawing from FCTC Article 15 which focusses on eliminating the global illicit tobacco trade. These negotiations led to The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit trade in Tobacco Products, also known as the Illicit Tobacco Trade Protocol (the Protocol or ITP).

Both the WHO FCTC2 and the Illicit Trade Protocol3  highlight the need to protect public health policies from the tobacco industry in multiple articles:

  • WHO FCTC Article 5.3: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”
  • WHO FCTC Article 12.c: “Each Party shall promote […] measures to promote […] public access, in accordance with national law, to a wide range of information on the tobacco industry as relevant to the objective of this Convention”
  • WHO FCTC Article 20.4.c: “Each Party shall endeavour to […] cooperate with competent international organizations to progressively establish and maintain a global system to regularly collect and disseminate information on tobacco production, manufacture and the activities of the tobacco industry which have an impact on the Convention or national tobacco control activities.”
  • The Protocol Article 4.2: “In implementing their obligations under this Protocol, Parties shall ensure the maximum possible transparency with respect to any interactions they may have with the tobacco industry”
  • The Protocol Article 8.12: “Obligations assigned to a Party shall not be performed by or delegated to the tobacco industry”
  • The Protocol Article 8.13: “Each Party shall ensure that its competent authorities, in participating in the tracking and tracing regime, interact with the tobacco industry and those representing the interests of the tobacco industry only to the extent strictly necessary in the implementation of this Article.”
  • The Protocol Article 8.14: “Each Party may require the tobacco industry to bear any costs associated with that Party’s obligations under this Article.”

COP and MOP

FCTC parties usually meet every two years at a Conference of the Parties (COP). At the same time, parties to the Protocol meet at the Meeting of the Parties (MOP).

Both WHO FCTC COP 4 and the Protocol MOP5 continued to emphasise the need to protect health measures from the tobacco industry and holding it accountable.

The decisions are summarised in the timeline and detailed below.

  • Establishes a system for reporting and exchanging information on the implementation of core FCTC articles related to exposing tobacco industry interference (detailed above).

    Requires developing guidelines for the implementation of articles 11, 12 and 13 on tobacco products packaging, public education, and advertising, to include protection, awareness-raising and information sharing on tobacco industry interference on these topics.

  • Adopts guidelines for the implementation of article 8 to include the monitoring of industry activities in the context of smoke-free legislation.

  • Adopts guidelines for the implementation of article 5.3, highlighting the key role of civil society, nongovernmental and non-state actors in monitoring tobacco industry interference.

    Adopts guidelines for the implementation of article 11 on countering industry arguments and techniques regarding plain packaging.

    Adopts guidelines for the implementation of article 13, banning industry contributions to CSR campaigns on the basis that this is considered promotion.

  • Adopts guidelines for the implementation of article 12, on Education, Communication, Training and Public Awareness to include capacity building to enable the monitoring of the industry and its products, and to enable cross-national information sharing on TI interference.

  • Adopts the Protocol to Elimitate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, which was prepared mindful of Article 5.3 of the FCTC.

    Consolidates parties’ commitment to “cooperate […] to strengthen their capacity to fulfil the obligations […] and in efforts to counteract tobacco industry interference”.

  • Expands article 5.3 to “protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to END/ENNDS, including the interests of the tobacco industry”.

     Requires the FCTC Secretariat to “develop monitoring tools” and mechanisms for sharing information “enhance the monitoring of tobacco industry interference”, creating Observatories for industry interference.

  • Expands article 5.3 to include industry interference in waterpipe tobacco policies and control, and in policies on alternatives to tobacco growing.

    Urges parties to the FCTC “not to consider any proposal or assistance related to tracking and tracing from the tobacco industry, or submitted on their behalf” in relation to the Protocol.

    Requires the FCTC secretariat to intensify international cooperation in industry monitoring, including by developing Knowledge Hubs and Observatories.

  • Expands article 5.3 to “protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to novel and emerging tobacco products, including the interests of the tobacco industry”.

    Requires parties to observe article 5.3 when nominating representatives to COP and other FCTC meetings.

    Requires the industry to provide info on research, marketing, lobbying including policy submissions, funding of third parties/NGOs.

  • Expands article 5.3 considerations to protect activities from commercial and vested interests, including those of the tobacco industry, to apply to the implementation of the Protocol.

    Establishes a code of conduct to prevent conflict of interests for the Members of the Bureau, the Regional Coordinators of MOP, the parties to the Protocol, the Convention Secretariat and any delegates to MOP.

  • For more information on COP 9, see the dedicated page.

COP 1, 6-17 February 2006

  • FCTC/COP1(14): Establishing a system for reporting and exchanging information including on the implementation of core FCTC articles related to exposing tobacco industry interference (detailed above).
  • FCTC/COP1(15): requiring elaboration of guidelines for implementation of the Convention including:
    • On Article 11: Packaging and labelling of tobacco products, with the rationale that “The tobacco industry thrives by disseminating misleading information regarding social acceptability and health effects of their product”.
    • On Article 12: Education, communication, training and public awareness “Clear definition of elements of guidelines […] Specify strategies for providing public access to information on tobacco industry activities in the country”.
    • On Article 13: Regulating cross-border advertising: “to be resource intensive (in terms of money, expertise, and responding to industry-engendered challenges)”

COP 2, 30 June – 6 July 2007

  • FCTC/COP2(7) Adoption of the guidelines for implementation of Article 8 (Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke): “… include monitoring and responding to tobacco industry activities …” and “… to identify and publicize the efforts made by the tobacco industry to undermine the implementation measures …”

COP 3, 12- 22 November 2009

  • FCTC/COP3(7) Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3: detailed principles, recommendations, and measures to protect public health policies from tobacco industry interference, including the role of civil society, nongovernmental and non-state actors in monitoring industry activities.
  • FCTC/COP3(10) Guidelines for implementation of Article 11 (Packaging and labelling of tobacco products) including “plain packaging … address industry package design techniques that may suggest that some products are less harmful than others” and “… Parties should endeavour to share legal and other expertise in countering tobacco industry arguments against packaging and labelling measures …”
  • FCTC/COP3(12) Guidelines for implementation of Article 13 (Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship) including … “Tobacco industry public education campaigns, such as “youth smoking prevention campaigns” should be prohibited on the basis that they involve “contributions” when implemented by other parties or represent corporate promotion if conducted by the industry itself” and “The Parties should ban contributions from tobacco companies to any other entity for “socially responsible causes”, as this is a form of sponsorship. Publicity given to “socially responsible” business practices of the tobacco industry should be banned, as it constitutes advertising and promotion.” And “Parties should require disclosure by the tobacco industry to relevant governmental authorities of any advertising, promotion and sponsorship in which it engages”

COP 4, 15-20 November 2010

  • FCTC/COP4(5) Punta del Este Declaration on the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control including “… The need to exchange information on the activities of the tobacco industry, at a national or international level, which interfere with the implementation of public health policies with respect to tobacco control”
  • FCTC/COP4(7) Guidelines for the implementation of Article 12 on Education, communication, training and public awareness, indicate that parties should ensure that “the strategies and practices of the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco control efforts are communicated as widely as possible […]” and that “entities involved in education, communication and training, and related research, […] do not accept any direct or indirect tobacco industry funding”.The guidelines highlight that “the participation of civil society is of vital importance to national and international tobacco-control efforts. Vigilance must be exercised to ensure they are not affiliated with the tobacco industry”. Parties should therefore “work with civil society to create a climate of attitude that […] increases awareness of tobacco industry interference […]” as well as encourage and support “nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society active in the field of tobacco control, and not affiliated with the tobacco industry …”. “Training programmes should include information about the strategies and practices of the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco-control efforts.”The guidelines detail requirements for public access to “accurate and truthful information on the strategies and activities of the tobacco industry and its products” via “publicly accessible databases, monitoring instruments and research based literature, and by publicizing trustworthy sources of information on the tobacco industry”, which could include “public repositories on the tobacco industry, such as the Legacy Tobacco Industry Documents Library; and counter-advertising campaigns using the media […]”. Guidance on capacity building for “effective monitoring and surveillance” training researchers and other relevant professionals is also included.There are detailed guidelines on education programmes, communication campaigns and training courses for the public and government (about for example tobacco industry funded or co-funded youth prevention programmes) which have been demonstrated to be ineffective and even counter-productive and have been publicly disapproved by the WHO as well as “tobacco industry interference with Parties’ tobacco-control policies.”
  • FCTC/COP4(8) Guidelines for implementation of Article 14 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation): “… Parties could consider placing the cost of cessation support on the tobacco industry …”
  • FCTC/COP4(10) Partial guidelines for implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and Regulation of tobacco products disclosures) “… Laboratories used by Parties for compliance purposes should be either governmental laboratories or independent laboratories that are not owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the tobacco industry” and “Parties should not accept claims from the tobacco industry concerning the confidentiality of information that would prevent governmental authorities from receiving information about the contents and emissions of tobacco products” and “Parties should require that manufacturers and importers of tobacco products disclose information on design features to governmental authorities at specified intervals, and as appropriate, including the results of tests conducted by the tobacco industry”

COP 5, 12-17 November 2012

  • FCTC/COP5(1) Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products: which was prepared mindful of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC
  • FCTC/COP5(5) Seoul Declaration: “The Parties to the WHO FCTC declare …. Their commitment to cooperate with each other and with the Convention Secretariat and other competent international bodies, consistent with Article 22 of the Convention, to strengthen their capacity to fulfil the obligations arising from the Convention and in efforts to counteract tobacco industry interference”

COP 6, 13-18 October 2014

  • FCTC/COP6(9) Electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems: “Invites Parties to […] protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to ENDS/ENNDS, including interests of the tobacco industry”
  • FCTC/COP6(11) Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (in relation to Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO FCTC)
  • FCTC/COP6(14) urges parties to “strengthen their implementation of Article 5.3”, “intensify collaborative action to address tobacco industry efforts internationally” and “raise awareness and adopt measures to implement Article 5.3 and its implementing Guidelines among all parts of government including diplomatic missions”. It “requests the Convention Secretariat […] to examine the level of tobacco industry engagement in key international organizations, […] identify and recommend options and sustainable mechanisms international cooperation on, and exchange of information related to, tobacco industry interference” and to “[…] develop and promote monitoring tools that would encourage voluntary and timely sharing of further information in order to enhance the monitoring of tobacco industry interference”
  • FCTC/COP6(19) Trade and investment issues, including international agreements, and legal challenges in relation to implementation of the WHO FCTC: “Encourages Parties to cooperate in exploring possible legal options to minimize the risk of the tobacco industry making undue use of international trade and investment instruments to target tobacco control measures”
  • FCTC/COP6(26) Moscow Declaration: “Calls on the Parties … to take special account, during implementation of national tobacco control measures, of the population groups, including women, children and adolescents, minority groups and low socioeconomic groups, who are especially vulnerable to the efforts of the tobacco industry to recruit and maintain users”

COP 7, 7-12 November 2016

  • FCTC/COP7(4) Control and prevention of waterpipe tobacco products “… to comply with Article 5.3 and its Guidelines in relation to waterpipe tobacco policies and control”
  • FCTC/COP7(6) Status of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (ITP) “except interactions to the extent strictly necessary, Parties to the Convention are urged not to consider any proposal or assistance related to tracking and tracing from the tobacco industry, or submitted on their behalf”
  • FCTC/COP7(8) Protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry: “Parties to intensify multisectoral actions and cooperation to address efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts, and the need to be informed of the tobacco industry actions that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts” and “the Convention Secretariat … to include media strategies to raise awareness about tobacco industry interference in the global communication strategy”
  • FCTC/COP7(10) Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (in relation to Articles 17 and 18: “… keeping in mind Article 5.3 in promoting alternatives to tobacco growing, and avoid tobacco industry obstruction in programmes meant for the welfare and diversification of tobacco growers and workers and the protection of the environment, as appropriate in the national context”
  • FCTC/COP7(11) Implementation of Article 19: “Liability”: “the Convention Secretariat … to develop a database of experts and institutions that can provide Parties, upon request, with technical assistance related to tobacco industry liability, create a digital platform for international cooperation, and make available and regularly update related resources”
  • FCTC/COP7(14) Further development of the partial guidelines for implementation of Articles 9 and (Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and Regulation of tobacco product disclosures) “… to invite all Parties, the tobacco-related Knowledge Hubs and the World Health Organization (WHO) to continue building capacity to require the tobacco industry to test and disclose the contents and emissions of tobacco products to regulatory authorities”
  • FCTC/COP7(21) Trade and investment issues, including agreements, and legal challenges in relation to the implementation of the WHO FCTC “the Convention Secretariat … to document the tobacco control measures most frequently targeted by the tobacco industry, and inform Parties, as appropriate, on how to protect their regulatory capacity in this regard”
  • FCTC/COP7(26) International cooperation for implementation of the WHO FCTC, including on human rights “the Convention Secretariat to collaborate with existing United Nations mechanisms and processes working on issues of business and human rights in order to protect public health interests from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”
  • FCTC/COP7(29) Delhi Declaration: “… to counter any efforts by industry and other non-State actors that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry to subvert and undermine government policies on tobacco control” and “… to prevent interference by the tobacco industry at all levels, in accordance with Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC through legislative and regulatory measures and to inform non-health government departments of their obligations under Article 5.3” and “… to utilize available resources and mechanisms of assistance, such as from the knowledge hubs and tobacco industry observatories”

COP 8, 1-6 October 2018

  • FCTC/COP8(4) Code of Conduct and Declaration of Interest for the Members of the Bureau and the Regional Coordinators of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and on proposed measures preventing and addressing possible conflicts of interest at the Convention Secretariat
  • FCTC/COP8(12) Maximizing transparency of delegations from Parties and observers to the Conference of the Parties, its subsidiary bodies and other WHO FCTC meetings: “to require Parties, when designating their representatives to the meetings of the COP, its subsidiary bodies or any other bodies established pursuant to decisions of the COP, to indicate, by any means or format of their preference (e.g. in the accreditation document or in a separate letter), that they have observed Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and have been mindful of the recommendations 4.9 and 8.3 of the Guidelines. In this regard, the Parties shall indicate the following: “When designating its representatives to the [name of the meeting], [name of the Party] has observed Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and has been mindful of the recommendations 4.9 and 8.3 of the Guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC”;”
  • FCTC/COP8(18) Protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry
  • FCTC/COP8(19) Implementation of Articles 17 and 18 (alternative livelihoods and protection of the environment “Parties to support and strengthen the implementation of Articles 17 and 18 of WHO FCTC as a mean to safeguard tobacco growers livelihoods and to address tobacco industry national and international efforts to block tobacco control policies”
  • FCTC/COP8(22) Novel and emerging tobacco products “to protect tobacco-control policies and activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to novel and emerging tobacco products, including interests of the tobacco industry, in accordance with Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC”

MOP 1, 8-10 October 2018

  • FCTC/MOP1(5) Cooperation with competent international and regional intergovernmental organizations, including financial and development institutions “to support the implementation of the Protocol in accordance with their mandates and expertise and, in line with Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to prevent undue interference from the tobacco industry and industries with other vested interests”
  • FCTC/MOP1(13) Code of Conduct and Declaration of Interest for the Members of the Bureau and the Regional Coordinators of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products and on proposed measures preventing and addressing possible conflicts of interest at the Convention Secretariat
  • FCTC/MOP1(15) Maximizing transparency of delegations from Parties and observers to the Meeting of the Parties, its subsidiary bodies and other Protocol meetings

References

    1. World Health Organization, The tobacco epidemic has not gone away, WHO news, 1 November 2021, accessed November 2021
    2. World Health Organization, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003, accessed October 2021
    3. World Health Organization, Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, 2013, accessed October 2021
    4. World Health Organisation, Decisions of the Conference of Parties to the WHO FCTC, undated, accessed October 2021
    5. World Health Organisation, Decisions FCTC/MOP1, undated, accessed October 2021
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