The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bryan Hirsch, +41 76 547 3476
Susan Cavanagh, +41 78 626 4490

Big Tobacco Attempts to Smuggle Loopholes Into Global Tobacco Treaty

Ratifying countries criticized for collaboration with Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco


Today NGOs released an expose highlighting new tobacco industry
tactics to undermine implementation of the global tobacco treaty,
formally known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The report comes at the midpoint of an
eight-day negotiating meeting on a protocol to the FCTC on illicit
tobacco trade, where tobacco giants such as Philip Morris International
(PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco (JT) have a
strong presence. The document, produced by Corporate Accountability
International and the Network for Accountability of Tobacco
Transnationals (NATT), criticizes FCTC Parties such as Lebanon and the
Philippines for collaborating with tobacco corporations and falling
short of commitments under the treaty.

FCTC Article 5.3 obligates treaty Parties to "protect [public
health] policies from commercial and other vested interests of the
tobacco industry in accordance with national law." Guidelines for the
implementation of this measure were adopted at the third Conference of
Parties (COP) last November in Durban, South Africa (full text
available online:
"In November, ratifying countries unanimously adopted rigorous
guidelines to protect public health policy against tobacco industry
interference," explains Kathryn Mulvey, International Policy Director
for Corporate Accountability International. "Now, Big Tobacco is trying
to get governments to ignore their obligations under the treaty and
make exceptions to these new rules. We urge the international community
to reject the tobacco industry's attempts to subvert the FCTC and
derail the illicit trade protocol."

The tobacco corporations and civil society do seem to agree about
one thing: the protocol on illicit trade is precedent-setting. This is
the first high-profile tobacco control issue to be taken on at the
global level since last November, when three sets of implementation
guidelines were adopted - on banning tobacco advertising, promotion and
sponsorship; effective warning labels; and protecting against tobacco
industry interference. NGOs are calling on treaty Parties to follow
through on their commitments. Meanwhile the tobacco lobby is present
and visible at this week's negotiations in full force, seeking to
influence the content of the protocol to its own advantage and chip
away at the safeguards of Article 5.3.

PMI has invited delegates to attend private meetings at the
Intercontinental Hotel throughout the week. In contrast to the previous
two negotiating sessions, this week the public gallery has been packed
full of tobacco industry lobbyists. On Monday there were more than
forty people in the gallery.

Twenty-three of the twenty-eight people willing to identify
themselves were from the tobacco industry, including twelve from BAT,
seven from JT, one from Imperial Tobacco, and one from the Tobacco
Institute of South Africa.

The FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines instruct ratifying countries to
"Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and
ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur"
(Recommendation 2). But last month Lebanon played host to British
American Tobacco's (BAT) two-day conference on illicit trade, where
Lebanese Minister of Finance Dr. Mohammed Shateh and other high-level
public officials from the region reportedly met with BAT behind closed
doors to discuss taxes, smuggling and other policy issues.

The guidelines also recommend that treaty Parties, "Reject
partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the
tobacco industry" (Recommendation 3). But last month Philippines
customs authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Philip
Morris Philippines, through which the corporation will presumably gain
access to law enforcement personnel and customs data. (This is the same
corporation that was accused by Thailand two years ago of exploiting
customs procedures and evading taxes by understating the value of

The guidelines begin with the principle that 'There is a fundamental
and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests
and public health policy interests" (Principle 1) and urge Parties to
avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees
(Recommendation 4). Yet PMI reports meeting with 2,800 government
agencies and 8,000 government employees to promote its system for
tracking and tracing cigarette products.

"This report is a powerful reminder to FCTC Parties that the tobacco
industry is not and cannot be a partner in tobacco control
initiatives," said Laurent Huber, Director of the Framework Convention
Alliance (FCA). "The FCTC is motivated by a desire to protect human
health and the tobacco industry is motivated by profit which inherently
undermines human health, therefore the two are in direct opposition."

View the full report Clearing the Smoke-Filled Room: An Expose on
How the Tobacco Industry Attempts to Undermine the Global Tobacco
Treaty and the Illicit Trade Protocol online:

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