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Sarah Dotlich, Press Secretary
Global Tobacco Treaty Meetings Marred by Industry Interference
Governments to industry: you’re not welcome
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - November 26 - Today, global tobacco treaty negotiations concluded after a week of Big Tobacco’s attempts to derail, distract, and intimidate 175 countries from strengthening lifesaving measures required by the public health treaty. Despite the industry’s underhanded tactics, governments made concrete progress.
On the second day of the meetings for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Conference of the Parties kicked Big Tobacco and its front group representatives out of committee meetings after members of civil society, including Corporate Accountability International, exposed the lobbyists who infiltrated the meetings under the guise of "public badges.” Article 5.3 of the treaty expressly prohibits tobacco industry interference in public health policy, and thus, their presence in the meetings.
“Big Tobacco blatantly obstructed progress during negotiations by co-opting governments and maneuvering official seats on delegations. Its disregard for the treaty was on full display from the halls of the conference center to front group press conferences," said John Stewart, Challenge Big Tobacco Campaign Director. “We applaud countries for standing up to Big Tobacco and showing them the door.”
The industry's intimidation of the Kenyan delegation is one clear example of direct interference in this week’s proceedings. On Thursday, BAT Kenya and three other tobacco corporations wrote to the Kenyan Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to complain about the Kenyan delegation's deviation from so-called “agreed positions.”
“The Kenyan delegation was doing its job to advocate on behalf of public health and strengthen the treaty's lifesaving measures. This intimidation tactic shows us that the tobacco industry is doing everything to frustrate the adoption of lifesaving measures of the treaty. This ploy to get governments to soft pedal on critical provisions of the FCTC is particularly worrisome,” said Sam Ochieng, Executive Director of the Consumer Information Network in Kenya.
In another case, countries did not approve the official observer status of INTERPOL, an international law enforcement agency, due to widespread concern over the agency's acceptance of a recent 15-million-euro contribution from Philip Morris International to support the agency's efforts against the illicit trade of tobacco products. Article 5.3 under the treaty denies official status to any organization that has a direct affiliation with the tobacco industry.
Countries stood firm against Big Tobacco's variety of obstructionist tactics and adopted measures that when fully implemented will save 200 million lives by 2050, including:
- Most notably, the first protocol to the treaty which sets out measures to rein in illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade undermines tobacco control and costs governments billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, law enforcement and health care expenditures. It will also continue to impede the tobacco industry’s ability to engage in the illicit trade of its own products, which opens up new markets for its deadly brands and allows it to evade taxes.
- Countries took first steps to hold the tobacco industry liable for its abuses, exposing decades of deception and opening up the potential to generate much-needed revenue to treat tobacco-related disease. These steps could fundamentally change the way the tobacco industry operates globally and seriously impede its ability to circumvent public health laws.
- Countries adopted a set of guiding principles and recommendations that provide a solid basis for better tobacco tax policies around the world.
- Guidelines were adopted to make it easier for countries to force Big Tobacco to disclose the toxic ingredients of tobacco products.
- Parties reiterated their determination to prioritize public health over trade and resolved to strengthen action to protect public health policies from Big Tobacco.