Why is there a global treaty on tobacco?
The tobacco industry is a global entity. It is made up of large trans-national companies, state-owned entities and domestic growers, manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers of tobacco. It also includes a wide range of supporting consultancies specialising in such areas as marketing, legal services and lobbying.
Tobacco products available today are highly engineered during the production process. They are often made up of tobacco sourced from several countries and may include a wide range of additives including sweeteners and flavourings. Despite the harms caused by their products, decades of evidence show that the tobacco industry actively and consistently acts to delay, dilute and defeat domestic tobacco control measures. It uses a variety of tactics or strategies to interfere with tobacco control.
How is this different from any other industry?
There is a strong body of evidence that show how tobacco is inherently deadly. Unlike any other consumer product, tobacco cannot be used without risk. Despite this, decades of evidence show that the tobacco industry actively and consistently acts to delay, dilute and defeat domestic tobacco control measures.
The industry documents, many now reviewed and cited in over 750 reports and peer-reviewed publications provide evidence of how the tobacco corporations operated. The findings of these reviews have shown that tobacco companies:
* knew their products were harmful and killed their consumers‚
* knew that nicotine was highly addictive‚
* hid this knowledge while publicly denying the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke and the addictiveness of tobacco,
* targeted young people with advertising and promotions to perpetuate the use of their products.
How does the tobacco industry interfere with tobacco control policies and measures?
There are six ways that the industry interferes.
What is Article 5.3 and why is it important?
Article 5.3 is the section of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control which provides guidance on how to handle interference from the tobacco industry. There are four principles:
* There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.
* Parties, when dealing with the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, should be accountable and transparent.
* Parties should require the tobacco industry and those working to further its interests to operate and act in a manner that is accountable and transparent.
* Because their products are lethal, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses.
Under these guidelines, there are eight recommendations. These include:
* Raise awareness about tobacco industry interference among all those working in all branches of government and among the public.
* Avoid any interaction with the tobacco industry except where necessary to enable them to effectively regulate tobacco products and the tobacco industry. Where interactions do take place, they must be conducted transparently.
* Reject partnerships, non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the industry, including voluntary codes of conduct, industry-sponsored tobacco control initiatives or industry offers to assist with the development of tobacco control legislation or policy.
* Develop clear policies on avoidance of conflicts of interest for government officials, employees, consultants and contractors. A wide range of specific steps are recommended within the guidelines.
* Require disclosure of information by the tobacco industry to promote transparency. This must include tobacco production, manufacture, sales and content, as well as industry lobbying, philanthropy, political donations.
* Denormalise and regulate activities described by the industry as “socially responsible” and expose the real intent – such as making the industry seem benevolent towards the population – behind these activities. ‚
* Do not give any benefits, tax exemptions or other incentives to the tobacco industry.
* Treat any state-owned tobacco industry no differently from privately-owned tobacco companies
Why was the observatory in South Africa?
The Conference of the Parties, at its sixth session, adopted a decision to further promote implementation of Article 5.3 and its Guidelines among the parties, especially in relation to the industry efforts to undermine tobacco control efforts internationally.
A strong feature of the FCTC is that it not only obligates parties to take effective steps to reduce tobacco use in their countries and to collaborate internationally, but it also openly confronts the tobacco industry.
Article 5.3 of the FCTC requires all Parties, when setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, to “… act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.
Considering that the BRICS countries are home to more than 40% of the world population, progress in implementation in these countries is of utmost importance. The BRICS countries could take a major role in global tobacco control and lead the way for other emerging economies.
There is a need to strengthen implementation of Article 5.3 of the Convention, which should be based on the monitoring of tobacco industry activities, the way it attempts to or interferes with public health policy development, and inform policy making with a view to prevent such interference. Towards this end, this project is aimed at establishing centres on tobacco industry monitoring in all five BRICS countries.
What will the centre do?
In collaboration with the FCTC Convention Secretariat and the Department of Health, the monitoring centres will, inter alia:
Monitor the activities of the tobacco industry and its front groups that are aimed at preventing, delaying, defeating public health policies with respect to tobacco control in the respective countries
Promote and provide public access to research on the activities of the tobacco industry and its allies, including the tactics used and the organisations, institutions, and people the industry collaborates with, including front groups and third parties who act on its behalf
It will also regularly inform decision-makers in the respective countries on the findings of its research and outcomes of its activities and participate in the development and implementation of policies developed by the Government and individual government based agencies in relation to Article 5.3 of the Convention.
In addition, the centre will raise awareness on tobacco industry efforts to influence policy making at international forums and engage with the media to ensure coverage of and reveal the tactics of the tobacco industry, thus “denormalizing” tobacco industry activities especially those that are described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as “corporate social responsibility”.
The centre will also train government officials, other decision-makers and groups, such as health workers, community and social workers, educators, administrators on matters concerning Article 5.3 and its Guidelines.
It will facilitate public access, in accordance with national law, to a wide range of information on the tobacco industry as relevant to the objectives of the WHO FCTC in line with Article 12(c) of the Convention.
And lastly, it will share the information collected and the know-how on the monitoring process among the Parties to the Convention, by regularly communicating and disseminating its findings.