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The report of the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), “Global Progress in Implementation of the FCTC”, (document FCTC/COP/7/4), notes the incredible advances we’ve made in implementing the life-saving measures of the treaty – often despite aggressive attempts by the tobacco industry to block, weaken, and delay them.

And the long-awaited legal victories in Uruguay and Australia over Big Tobacco have been wind in the sails of public health officials globally.

However, the summary also notes one incredibly important conclusion: “the tobacco industry continues to be the most important barrier in implementation of the Convention”.

This stark reminder highlights the urgency of national-level implementation of FCTC Article 5.3, which states: “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.”

Article 5.3 is the most powerful tool at Parties’ disposal to neutralise the money, power, and influence of this deadly industry and its allies. Implementation of this powerful measure at the national level, which safeguards and facilitates implementation of all other articles of the treaty, must be prioritised by the Parties at COP7. This means reviewing lessons learned from both the progress and challenges contained in the Secretariat’s report, but also a renewed commitment to prioritising implementation of Article 5.3 and its guidelines at the national level, coupled with additional investment and resourcing.

To date, dozens of governments have begun to implement measures in line with Article 5.3 at the national level, and more are expected to follow suit.

For instance, Norway has divested more than US$2 billion from the tobacco industry. Uganda incorporated almost all of the Article 5.3 guidelines into a national tobacco control bill signed into law this year.

Brazil adopted ethical guidelines for representatives of its tobacco control commission, CONICQ, requiring that it has no ties with the tobacco industry.

The European Union has terminated its agreement with Philip Morris International. Australia publishes all meetings between government officials and the tobacco industry on a public website. And the Philippines has barred public officials from interacting with the tobacco industry unless strictly necessary for regulation.

When Parties prioritise implementing Contiued on page 8 measures in line with Article 5.3, it pays huge dividends for tobacco control across the board. By investing time and energy up front into cleaning up the policymaking process and changing the culture within government to recognise the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health, Parties find it much easier to pass any and all tobacco control measures into law.

Yet it remains clear that more work needs to be done. For one, though many health ministries have implemented policies in line with Article 5.3, other agencies, such as trade and agriculture, often have not, opening the door to tobacco industry influence. In addition, Article 5.3 is more akin to a good governance measure than a public health measure per se. This can be a barrier for public health officials who don’t have the expertise to implement and enforce, for example, conflict of interest policies for government employees. It also requires coordination across agencies to ensure the article and guidelines are enforced beyond the ministry of health.

Several COP7 agenda items will address the tobacco industry.

Civil society will be watching governments closely.

John Stewart
Deputy Campaign Director: Water & Tobacco, Corporate Accountability International

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