The World Health Organization (WHO) has frowned at the rate at which the tobacco industry has been deploying different tactics to undermine tobacco control across the world, urging member nations of its global tobacco treaty to be mindful of these tactics.
Sabina Timco Jacazzi, the Treaty Officer (Legal Affairs), WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), made this known while speaking during a virtual media workshop ahead of the 10th Conference of Parties to the WHO FCTC – the global tobacco treaty in Panama.
Jacazzi explained that some of the tactics being used by the tobacco industry include “lobbying and influencing policy, claiming a public health role, and support through allies.”
Jacazzi, who noted that tobacco remains a major threat to life, health, well-being and environment, encouraged countries to ban or regulate novel tobacco products, in the interest of the public.
The Treaty Officer also noted that “there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests,” and countries must take cogent steps to implement Article 5.3 of the WHO- FCTC.
Also speaking at the workshop, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), explained that the FCTC remains a viable measure to regulate the tobacco industry, adding that, “if they are not working, the industry will not continue to attack them.”
Oluwafemi also decried false solutions that are being promoted by the tobacco industry lobbyist, especially with the influx of novel products.
He said “what are the false solutions now being promoted on our continent, and possibly on the global level? We have seen the influx of novel products, for instance, e-cigarettes, and attempts by the tobacco industry to subvert the Ministry of Health which is the ministry that champions the FCTC implementation in-country.
“They go through the Ministry of Trade and Investment and other agencies of government in order to get backdoor legal documents for their products, and with that has been the influx of media articles, influencers online and social media campaigns, among others.”
He thereafter urged the media to be alert to conversations driven by the industry, adding that the tobacco industry is also increasingly using the so-called alternatives as an attack on the FCTC process itself.
Sharing some of the finding from the 2023 African Tobacco Industry Interference Index, Labram Musah, Executive Director, Vision for Alternative Development (VALD Ghana) disclosed that tobacco industry uses Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to indirectly get the buy-ins of governments.
He highlighted the need for governments to “maintain a strong stance against tobacco industry interference, and implement existing tobacco control laws, where applicable, or fast-track the passing of pending tobacco control laws, where necessary.”
Other experts at the media workshop organized by Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) were; Daniel Dorado, Tobacco Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability (CA); Research Director, Fundación Anaas in Colombia; Dr Tara Singh Bam, Board Director, Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT) in Singapore; and Shobha Shukla, Founding Managing Editor, CNS in India.