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November 9th, 2016:

China’s 2015 tobacco tax adjustment: a step in the right direction

In August 2016, the Chinese public health community got a much-needed boost. The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, said at the National Meeting on Health attended by members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee, “An all-around moderately prosperous society cannot be achieved without the people’s all-around health.” He stressed that “Prevention should be more important than treatment” and “If these issues are not addressed effectively, the people’s health may be seriously undermined, and economic development and social stability will be compromised.”

Given China’s size and importance in the world, the emphasis placed by President Xi on health promotion and disease prevention is nothing but revolutionary. Indeed, in an era where the organization and delivery of specialized, high-cost medical care dominates global health practice, the words of President Xi signals the emergence of a more balanced health paradigm in China, where public health and medical care reinforce and complement each other as part of a continuum of multi-sectoral actions to deal with both the causes and consequences of social, environmental, and behavioural drivers of ill health, premature mortality, and disability.

China has the highest number of tobacco users in the world (>300 million) and smoking is a major killer. Approximately 1 million deaths every year are caused by tobacco, despite improved access to medical care thanks to the expansion in recent years of national health insurance coverage.

In the face of this dire reality, what to do? Wait to treat people when they develop lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases, or adopt measures to prevent the onset of disease in the first place? Governments have an obligation and the means to protect their population’s wellbeing by adopting effective fiscal and regulatory measures, in addition to providing medical care to those persons who fall ill. In that sense, 2015 may prove to be a landmark year for tobacco control in China, as the Government adopted a national tax reform on cigarettes as well as a ban on smoking in public places in Beijing—a ban that is proposed to be expanded across the country.

Initial assessments done by a team from WHO’s Collaborating Center for Tobacco and Economics at Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), show that the 2015 tobacco tax reform is proving to be a win-win for both fiscal and public health in China. The evidence thus far:

• Impact on price and market structure. The weighted average wholesale price increased by 8.9% from 10.27RMB per pack in 2014 to 11.18RMB per pack in 2015. The average retail price increased by 10.29%, from 11.61RMB per pack to 12.81RMB per pack. However, from a global perspective, the weighted average cigarette price in China is still cheap: less than US$2 per pack on average. As the low-end price categories increased more than middle and premium price categories of cigarettes, the price gaps between tiers have been reduced. This encourages smokers up-shifting from the low end categories (Class V and Class IV) to the middle and upper price categories (Class III and Class II).

• Impact on tax incidence. The sales weighted tax share as % of retail price increased from 52% in 2014 to 56% in 2015, which is still lower than WHO recommended standard of 75%. The sales weighted average excise tax as % of retail price increased by 4% from 31% in 2014 to 35% in 2015.

• Impact on consumption. For the first time since 2001, as confirmed by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA), the volume of cigarette sales decreased by 2.36% in 2015 compared to 2014. After the 2015 tax adjustment, sales continued to decrease by 4.61% over May 2015-April 2016 compared with May 2014-April 2015, and by 5.36% between October 2015-September 2016 compared with October 2014-September 2015.

• Impact on government’s revenue. According to STMA data, the tobacco industry in China contributed 840.4 billion RMB (about US$129.29 billion) tax revenue from tobacco products in 2015, an increase of 9% over the 2014 level. As a state-owned enterprise, it also contributed an additional 190.97 billion RMB (US$29.38 billion) profit to the central government, plus 63.6 billion RMB (US$9.79 billion) enterprise income tax to the central government. The 2015 tax increase was applied at the wholesale level, which generated an additional 57.8billion RMB (US$8.89 billion) in excise tax at the wholesale level.

• Impact on public health. A preliminary estimation suggests that within 12 months followed by the 2015 tax increase, the total number of smokers would decrease by about 5 million.

While the impact of the 2015 tobacco tax increase is generating measurable benefits, the price of cigarettes in China continues to be low and increasingly affordable for a population that enjoys rapid wage increases. If the ultimate goal is to help smokers quit and prevent the next generation from getting addicted to smoking cigarettes, then additional tobacco tax policy reforms are needed in China, especially for re-orienting the excise tax structure towards specific excise taxes at the retail level in the medium-term and towards a uniform tax system at the retail level in the long-term. A recent study* estimated that a 50% increase in tobacco price through excise tax would lead over 10 years to 5.3 million years of life gained, and reduce expenditures on tobacco-related disease treatment by US$2.4 billion.

Looking into the future, as evidenced in a World Bank study “Toward a Healthy and Harmonious Life in China: Stemming the Rising Tide of Non-Communicable Diseases”, with stronger tobacco control measures including steeper tobacco tax increases, the rapid rise in China’s non-communicable diseases can be halted, resulting in major gains for people’s health and the country’s social and economic development.

Tobacco plain packaging catching on worldwide: Canadian Cancer Society report

The trend to reduce smoking and cancer rates by forcing tobacco companies to use plain packaging is gaining momentum across the globe, concludes an international report released today by the Canadian Cancer Society. The report shows that 4 countries have plain packaging laws in place and 14 others are working on it.

Plain packaging requirements prevent tobacco companies from using colours, logos and design elements to market their cancer-causing products. The shape of the package must be in a standardized format, outlawing sales tactics such as slim packs appealing to girls and young women. Health warnings still appear on plain packages.

“Plain packaging is a global trend and it is coming to Canada, too,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. “We must continue to show leadership in the fight against the marketing of tobacco.”

In 2001 Canada was the first country in the world to implement graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages. Since then, more than 100 countries and territories (105 in total) have followed Canada’s lead – accounting for 58% of the world’s population – as illustrated in this graph. Canada’s leadership in graphic picture warnings has resulted in enormous health benefits globally.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada, including about 30% of all cancer deaths and 85% of lung cancer cases. Tobacco kills 37,000 Canadians every year.

Tobacco packaging is one of the last and most effective ways for companies to promote their products, with eye-catching logos and colours designed to appeal to consumers. Plain packaging reduces tobacco use by eliminating promotion on packaging, reducing product appeal, curbing package deception, and increasing the impact of health warnings. Research shows that plain packaging works.

“Plain packaging is a crucial next step for Canada to reduce smoking and save lives,” says Cunningham. “We strongly support the federal government’s commitment to follow the lead of Australia and other countries to implement plain packaging to curtail the marketing of these cancer-causing products.”

Plain packaging is required in Australia, the United Kingdom and France, and will be by 2018 in Hungary. The 14 countries working on plain packaging are Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, Uruguay, Thailand, Singapore, Belgium, Romania, Turkey, Finland, Chile and South Africa.

Canada’s federal government included a commitment to plain packaging as part of its 2015 election platform. After forming a government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identified it as a “top priority” in a mandate letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott. On May 31, 2016 – World No Tobacco Day – Minister Philpott launched a 3-month public consultation on plain packaging. The federal government is now reviewing the responses and developing regulations.

The Canadian Cancer Society report released today – Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report – ranks 205 countries and territories based on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists countries that have finalized requirements for picture warnings. Canada ties for 8th in the world with package warnings that cover 75% of the package’s front and back. Nepal and Vanuatu are tied for top spot with a warning size of 90%, while India and Thailand are 3rd at 85%. The United States is in last place with minimal requirements for health warnings on either the front or back of the package.

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling for plain packaging to be implemented in Canada as part of a strengthened Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, which should also include increased funding to support additional programming and policy measures. Health Canada’s current strategy expires on March 31, 2018. The existing Tobacco Act is 2 decades old and must be modernized.

The Society’s report, published every 2 years, reviews and ranks cigarette health warnings internationally and tracks developments in this important area of tobacco control.

Other report highlights include:

94 countries and territories require warnings to cover at least 50% of the package front and back (on average), up from 60 countries in 2014 and 24 in 2008. — The top countries ranked in terms of warning size (as an average of the front and back of the package) are: 1. 90% Nepal 1. 90% Vanuatu (effective in 2017)

3. 85% Thailand 3. 85% India 5. 82.5% Australia (75% of front, 90% of back) 6. 80% Sri Lanka 6. 80% Uruguay 8. 75% Brunei 8. 75% Canada 8. 75% Laos 8. 75% Myanmar
The Canadian Cancer Society’s report was released today in Delhi, India, at the 7th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control being held Nov. 7-12. The report was released to support implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, ratified by 180 countries. The goal of this international treaty is to control the global tobacco epidemic. Its guidelines recommend that parties consider implementing plain packaging.

Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in English Cigarette Package Health Warnings report in French

About the Canadian Cancer SocietyThe Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)


The Article 19 Expert Group has produced an excellent civil liability toolkit to help Parties strengthen their laws to hold tobacco companies legally accountable for the deaths, disease and health care costs that their products and misbehaviour produce.

But the toolkit won’t do any good in the closet.

First, it needs to be used by the Parties to strengthen their laws;. Second, the Parties, or civil society, need to use these laws to actually bring litigation against the industry. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can provide critical assistance at both stages., Tobacco litigation has been demonstrated to contribute powerfully to achieving tobacco control goals. In the United States, health care litigation has:

1. Produced billions of dollars of annual payments to the states,
2. Forced manufacturers to raise prices sharply— greatly reducing smoking, especially among youth.
3. Funded the counter-advertising campaign, Truth,; and
4. Revealed millions of internal industry documents that have made the industry politically toxic, making strong national tobacco control legislation possible for the first time.


Individual litigation, brought by private attorneys, has forced the industry to stop pretending that “light” cigarettes are less dangerous than other cigarettes, drawn media attention to the fact that cigarettes kill real people (as opposed to dreary statistics), and redirected the industry’s PR machinery from denying the dangers of cigarettes to blaming plaintiffs for being foolish and weak-willed for actually using them. In France however, the tobacco control law known as the Loi Evin authorised civil society to bring litigation against tobacco companies that violate advertising restrictions. This has resulted in effective enforcement of the law, along with substantial fines that have helped fund tobacco control organisations.

Why do Parties need help from NGO’s? Principally because not many people in the world – and few or none in most Parties – have experience bringing litigation against the tobacco industry. Health ministries certainly don’t have that expertise, but neither do justice ministries. Such litigation has only been attempted in a few countries, with even fewer chalking up successes to date.


The challenges and opportunities this litigation presents are quite different from other litigation.

Consider some examples. Much of the industry’s misbehaviour has taken place in the US or Britain and while there are millions of internal documents- many of which are incriminating— it’s not obvious how to find the right ones or get them admitted into evidence. Many of these documents are publicly availabe at

Tobacco defendants will also try to complicate the proceedings by insisting that each victim’s case is so unique that it must be tried separately, making personal injury litigation and even health care recovery litigation prohibitively expensive to bring. This experience needs to be presented to legislators and judges to persuade them to
rationalise and simplify procedures. And of course, tobacco defendants are endlessly inventive in making up reasons for delays and pre-trial appeals. Successful efforts to limit these possibilities in advance and to debunk claims that have been refuted elsewhere will also need the assistance and perhaps testimony from veterans of prior tobacco litigation battles.

Fortunately, help is readily available. The Tobacco Products Liability Project, part of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, US, has been addressing these issues since its founding in 1984. We have held more than 20 conferences with multi-national participation in Boston and have participated in multiple tobacco litigation conferences in each region designated by the World Health Organization. Since the purpose of the project is to encourage tobacco litigation as a public health strategy, we are happy to share our experience and expertise with Parties and civil society seeking to implement Article 19. Experienced attorneys are also available for technical assistance at the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer in Melbourne, Australia and the International Legal Consortium at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, DC.

Richard Daynard
Public Health Advocacy Institute,
Northeastern University School of Law, Boston


How would you respond to this scenario? A cosmetics company releases a new line of fragrances that promises to “make life wonderful.” The product is a hit, and millions of consumers world-wide begin using it daily. But researchers soon find that the fragrances contain a very addictive chemical that is absorbed through the skin. Worse, the chemicals that make the fragrances alluring are found to be toxic and carcinogenic, and the cancer rate of users skyrockets.

Further investigation reveals that not only did the cosmetic company know about these problems, it had invested a fortune to ensure that the fragrances are as addictive as possible. Are the corporate ringleaders guilty of murder?

Of course they are. Not only would the fragrances be removed from shelves, the CEO and other top corporate officials would be arrested and prosecuted. In 2014 the owner of a peanut company in the US was sent to prison for knowingly putting salmonella-tainted peanut butter on the market, killing nine people. And peanut butter is not addictive.

So why aren’t tobacco executives treated similarly? In a word, inertia.

By the time scientists and governments were sure of the health impacts of tobacco, hundreds of millions of people were already addicted, and tobacco use had become normalised. The public health community has spent decades, with marked success, denormalising tobacco use.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry has not only continued selling products it knows to be deadly and addictive, it has worked hard to make them more addictive and therefore more dangerous.

If cigarettes were introduced to the market today, and their impact was immediately recognised, criminal charges would quickly follow. It is only the historical legacy and political power of tobacco companies that have kept tobacco executives out of prison. To be clear, getting away with a crime for a long time is not a legal defence.

Criminal liability has received scant attention under FCTC Article 19. The report of the Expert Group to this COP, which is excellent on civil liability, does not include the word “criminal” except when it is lumped in with the phrase “civil and criminal liability”. This partly reflects the complexities of addressing criminal law in 180 jurisdictions. But perhaps it is time for society as a whole – to begin considering how long we will let people get away with murder.

Civil liability is a key litigation tool in the fight against Big Tobacco. In the US, Canada, and other jurisdictions, civil cases have had a profound impact, especially in  revealing the underhanded tactics of the industry.

In many of those cases, judges have opined on the potential criminal ramifications of such tactics, but to date no criminal charges have been filed addressing the tobacco industry’s core business practices.

A successful criminal prosecution would be a fundamental blow to the tobacco industry’s ability to carry on with “business as usual”. The key  acts that add up to murder, including nicotine manipulation and marketing, would have to cease; recruitment of corporate officials would be nearly impossible; corporate executives indicted in one jurisdiction would not be able to travel there, and would face extradition.

Since the adoption of the FCTC, there has been much talk of “end-game” scenarios in tobacco control. Criminal liability needs to be on that list.

Chris Bostic, deputy director, policy Action on Smoking and Health (US)


Declaring that a lack of resources is one of the key obstacles to implementation of the FCTC is a familiar complaint, often repeated at this and previous sessions of the COP.

True though this statement may be for many Parties, the commitments made in 2015 at the United Nations to recognise FCTC implementation as a global development priority mean that there are new ways to unlock resources. But it will take action by governments to make this a reality.

The FCTC is one of only three Conventions explicitly referenced in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. Furthermore, tobacco control and the FCTC are also explicitly mentioned in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, in the sections on mobilising domestic and international public resources.

Day 3 of COP7 is the time when Parties must seriously discuss how to take advantage of these 2015 achievements. Committee B will start with an agenda item that is ideal for this purpose: the Convention Secretariat will present its report on fundraising efforts and collaborative work (FCTC/ COP/7/26). The Secretariat is rightly concerned about mobilising around US$9 million for its own budget to deliver the workplan for the next two years. But it would be a mistake to spend Wednesday morning talking only about the FCTC budget.

It would be an even bigger mistake if a proposed Financing Dialogue organised within several months after COP7 does not spotlight Parties’ implementation needs, and how to address them.

Therefore, what we need on Wednesday is a healthy discussion on how to promote the investment case for FCTC implementation at country level through the Financing Dialogue.

The fact that the FCTC is cited in the SDGs won’t bring new donors rushing to the Secretariat, or to tobacco control focal points, to offer support. The SDGs include 168 global targets on a wide range of development issues so tobacco control is facing tough competition for development funding.

So how can we get the donors’ attention focused on the FCTC target as a means to achieve the health goal (SDG3)? First, it will be important to communicate what exactly is needed to advance tobacco control, in language that development partners can easily understand. In order to generate this information, we need the Secretariat to map implementation needs in a systematic way immediately after COP7, in advance of the proposed Financing Dialogue.

All these tasks are actually proposed in a COP7 report – but in a completely different one (FCTC/COP/7/18) which is not going to be discussed in Committee B. To initiate action or resource mobilisation for FCTC implementation, delegates in Committee B will need to closely coordinate with their colleagues in Committee A. There is hardly a better reason to do so.

Big tobacco stubs out cigarette tax

Colorado’s David and Goliath race is over. Goliath won.

Amendment 72 was called at 9 P.M Tuesday. It failed.

The measure would have revised the state constitution to add a tax of $1.75 per pack of 20 cigarettes, to be diverted to public health programs. In support were doctors, hospitals and public health advocates seeking to limit smoking, with a campaign war chest of about $2.1 million. Opposing the measure was one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, which spent more than eight times that amount.

Who is Goliath and what did he do?

The Richmond, Virginia-based tobacco giant Altria Client Services, LLC, formerly Philip Morris, contributed about $17.5 million to a group called No on 72 – No Blank Checks in the Constitution. Most of it — about $16.28 million — was in cash, but the company also gave $1.22 million in “in-kind” donations, meaning staff time and other non-monetary gifts.

Altria has held a spot on Fortune magazine’s 500 largest companies for 22 years, vacillating between #23 in 2007 to #179 in 2015. The holding company is the parent of Philip Morris USA, which represents half the country’s tobacco market share. It made about $5.2 billion in profits last year.

In 2003, what was then Philip Morris underwent a comprehensive rebranding that included a new name. Linguist Steven Pinker has suggested that they chose the name Altria because it sounds like the word “altruism,” and Philip Morris had a negative, carcinogenic image to get rid of.

No on 72 spent at least $14 million on polling, research, mailers, consultants and digital and television advertising as of the most recent campaign finance filing deadline.

For scale, that’s more than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spent on advertising in Colorado combined. Few Colorado residents could have avoided the messages about “blank checks in the constitution” broadcast from television and computer screens across the state.

Almost all of the campaign’s money is from Altria, although McLane Company, which supplies food to convenience stores and chain restaurants, donated $20,000 in October.

None of the advertisements put out by the opposition mentioned cigarettes or tobacco. Instead, they suggested that the money raised from an increased tobacco would have been a “blank check in the Colorado constitution” that unnamed “special interests” will use for “pet programs.”

In September, 9News’ Brandon Rittiman examined two of the ads and declared them as “Misleading” and “Speculation.” He also identified a certain “pot-and-kettle” quality to the ads, which suggested that the public health programs could be exploited by “special interests” — and are funded by a company that would lose financially if the amendment passes.

Elizabeth Skewes, an associate professor of journalism and media studies at CU Boulder’s journalism school, said the campaign’s choice of message was strategically wise.

Coloradans generally have accepted that smoking is harmful to public health, so tobacco tax opponents had to focus on an aspect of the amendment that is not related to tobacco.

“No on 72 is trying to frame this around procedure because if they can say, ‘We’re not even trying to argue that there’s not a public health reason for doing this, but we’re very concerned about the murkiness of the constitution,’ that’s their best argument to make,” Skewes said.

A few other factors beyond their opponents’ wealth put the amendment’s supporters at a disadvantage.

First, “no” feels safer for undecided voters. If a person is on the fence about a measure like Amendment 72 and doesn’t have the motivation to find out more information, academic research shows that just voting against it feels like less of a risk, Skewes said.

Second, the ballot was crowded this year. Amendment 72 competed with much flashier races for voters’ attention. This year included one of the most contentious presidential races in recent memory, and there were several other amendments voters had to decide, including the minimum wage, universal healthcare and “Raise the Bar.” Voters get exhausted wading through inscrutable ballot language and trying to determine what each measure’s impact would actually be, Skewes said, and may just not vote on measures like Amendment 72.

Who is David, and how did he try and fight back?

Despite all this, Amendment 72’s supporters had a lot on their side.

Not least was the public consensus that tobacco is harmful. Its status as a carcinogen is so well-cemented that climate change activists often draw parallels between the fossil fuel industry and the tobacco industry to cast the former as science deniers.

Yes on 72 was a coalition of state health and service organizations that boasted support from nine state newspaper editorial boards, more than 100 businesses and health-related organizations and Governor John Hickenlooper. The yes-campaign also benefitted from a general good-guy image: Doctors, hospitals and public health advocates aren’t generally seen as villainous. The campaign used that messaging in its advertising, which primarily shed light on the opposition’s number one donor.

Yes on 72 spokeswoman Myung Kim said that much of their work leading up to the election was to counter the messages No on 72 has been spreading. She said that many of the people they engage with have heard of the amendment only from the “blank check” advertising.

“As a campaign, what’s been frustrating is that the people who are being inundated with these ads don’t know that amendment 72 is about smoking,” Kim said. “And they also don’t know that those ads are coming from the largest tobacco company in the country.”

What does the defeat mean?

If you ask the folks at Yes on 72, it’s deeply lamentable.

Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado, released a statement just after the race was called.

“Amendment 72 would have reduced smoking, especially among children, and would have invested money in programs to support veterans and those most harmed by smoking,” Williams said. “Having been outspent 14 to 1 on advertising, we couldn’t overcome Philip Morris’ smear campaign.”

Williams further said that his team would start evaluating other options to reduce smoking rates.

“We’re going to look at our options beyond taxation.”

Then, sounding exhausted, he added, “We’re just trying to keep Coloradans, especially kids, from getting addicted to tobacco.”

Public, media to be kept at bay from WHO’s tobacco meet

Media and public will not be allowed to attend World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) negotiations, which started in Greater Noida on November 7. After the first day came to an end, seventh Convention of Parties (COP7) arrived at a consensus to keep media and public out of the meetings that will go on until November 12.

Those present at the venue said that major tobacco companies had obtained entry under the ‘Public’, and were seated in plenary session at the main hall on the first day.

“Some Congressmen from Brazil having ties with Philip Morris International cigarette company were seen lurking around at the venue, not as a part of the official Brazilian delegation but as part of public,” said Jorge Adolfo Vega Cardenas, Senior Latin American Policy Coordinator at Corporate Accountability International, based in Mexico.

Industry interference has spelt a death knell for journalists who have been disallowed to attend. Media is to be accredited in a separate process with the FCTC to be able to be present at the venue. Strangely, under current Rules of Procedure governing proceedings at COP, media falls under the category of ‘Public.’

Sources said that on Wednesday, the Thai delegation will propose a solution to this by changing rules of procedure to treat media as a separate category all together.

It is for the third time after earlier COPs 5 and 6 in Moscow and Seoul that media and public have been asked to leave plenary sessions and side meetings at the venue.

Although 181 countries could have voted on the first day of the plenary session to treat media as a separate category, they refrained from doing so. “The parties did not make a decision during the first day of the plenary to treat media as a separate category, which means media has no access to the plenary or committee meetings,” said a WHO official at the venue.

Union Health Ministry issued instructions to Indian journalists on Tuesday stating, “Fully accredited journalists will be permitted to enter public areas like press room and food hall. Journalists cannot enter meeting rooms and main hall.”

“COP is a governing body of the WHO FCTC and therefore decisions reached by the Parties regarding access to the event is at their discretion,” said a media briefing statement by convention secretariat.

“At the previous two COPs and this being the third, the governments wasted time and money deciding how to deal with an industry that has infiltrated the process. We must push Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take a stand at this COP and fix the issue of attendance of Public and Media,” said an Indian delegate at the venue, who did not wish to be identified. “Media should not be included under ‘Public.’ Public category should be done away with under Article 5.3 and accredited media (which has no ties with the industry) should be allowed to attend. Those violating rules should be asked to leave.”

Dr Arun Panda, additional secretary (health) said, “India is merely providing space for conducting the conference. All major decisions are taken by 180-odd governments.”

Queries sent to official spokespersons asking which industry personnel may have attended the sessions under ‘public,’ and how will it be done, went unanswered.

Global demand for cigarette graphic warnings grows

Over 100 countries and territories now require cigarette picture health warnings, marking a significant milestone in global public health that will reduce smoking and save lives.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) has released a report ranking 205 countries and territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages, and listing countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.

The report shows significant global momentum toward plain packaging, with four countries requiring plain packs and 14 working on the measure.

“There is a powerful, worldwide trend for countries to use graphic pictures on cigarette packages to show the devastating health effects of smoking, and to require plain packaging,” says CCS’s senior policy analyst Rob Cunningham.

Examples of graphic picture warnings include a diseased lung or mouth, a patient with lung cancer in a hospital bed and a child being exposed to secondhand smoke. The report also reveals that many countries have increased the size of picture warnings on cigarette packages – and these larger pictures are known to be more effective.

Cigarette package warnings are a highly cost-effective way to increase awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and to reduce tobacco use. Picture-based warnings convey a more powerful message than a text-only warning, and larger ones increase impact.

Other report highlights include:

  • 105 countries and territories have finalized picture warning requirements, an increase from the 77 that had implemented these requirements by the end of 2014. In 2001, Canada was the first country to require picture warnings and to require a 50 percent size.
  • 58 percent of the world’s population is covered by the 105 countries and territories that have finalized picture warning requirements.
  • Nepal has the largest warnings in the world with picture warnings covering 90 percent of the package front and back. Vanuatu will also require 90 percent picture warnings in 2017. India and Thailand have the next largest warnings at 85 percent of the front and back.
  • 94 countries and territories require warnings to cover at least 50 percent of the package front and back (on average), up from 60 countries in 2014 and 24 in 2008.
  • Implementation by most European Union (EU) countries of the new EU requirement for 65 percent picture warnings was an important development contributing to the increase since 2014 in the number of countries requiring picture warnings.

– See more at:

COP7: Nigerian delegation accuse colleagues of pushing tobacco industry agenda

Some members of the Nigerian delegation attending the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) have accused their colleagues of promoting tobacco industry interests through misleading interpretation of the treaty guidelines, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

The conference is holding in Delhi, India between November 7 and 12.

The Nigerian delegation includes Christiana Ukoli, the leader and a professor from the Federal Ministry of Health; Ihuoma Ofili of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria; Akinbode Oluwafemi, a civil society activist; Malau Toma of the Ministry of Justice; Ededet Eton, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, and one Mrs. Abimbola from the Ministry of Justice.

This newspaper learnt that within the Nigerian delegation, while Messrs. Ukoli and Oluwafemi were pro-health, Messrs. Ofili and Abimbola were pro-industry.

Mr. Toma, the Tobacco Desk Officer at the Federal Ministry of Health, was unable to attend the conference due to the inability of the ministry to fund her trip, a Nigerian activist attending the conference who preferred not to be named told PREMIUM TIMES.

On Wednesday, representatives of non-governmental organisations criticised Mrs. Ofili, a Tobacco Control Desk officer at SON, for attempting to sow doubt about the addictiveness of tobacco products—a familiar tobacco industry tactic—despite decades-long consensus on the issue.

“The delegate also recommended watering down protections against industry interference in tobacco control policymaking. The Nigerian Ministry of Health is underrepresented in this year’s Nigerian delegation, heightening suspicions of broader industry interference,” the groups said in a statement.

Another Nigerian activist at the conference said the country’s delegation was singing discordant tunes at the meeting.

“The FCTC recommendations are clear, especially in implementation. Misinterpreting them is the strategy the (tobacco) industry uses to derail implementation,” he added.

The CSOs said some members of the Nigerian delegation advanced arguments criticizing the treaty’s Article 5.3 guidelines limiting parties’ interaction with the tobacco industry, as well as Articles 9 and 10 which recommend measures to reduce the addictiveness of tobacco products.

“It is very disturbing and shocking to civil society and other governments that members of the Nigerian delegation advanced invalid arguments promoted by the tobacco industry, which has a sole aim: raking in profits at the expense of people’s health,” said Philip Jakpor, Nigeria spokesperson of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT).

Mrs. Ofili could not be reached for comments.

For decades, the tobacco industry has lobbied extensively against tobacco control policies at the national and international levels.

In November 2015, a whistleblower revealed British American Tobacco’s bribery of a Burundi delegate in an attempt to water down, weaken, and block progress on tobacco control at the FCTC. Given Big Tobacco’s well-documented history of influencing FCTC delegates to promote its agenda, participants at these negotiations raised questions about whether Nigeria’s comments were influenced by the industry.

Hellen Neima, a tobacco control advocate from Uganda attending the Conference of the Parties said: “The Nigerian position was the lowest moment of the discussion yesterday. It came in stark contrast to the applause received by other African governments who stood in firm support for protection against tobacco industry intimidation and bullying.”

Members of civil society warned that Nigeria’s comments may threaten advances to public health, including guidelines around the toxicity of tobacco products. Article 9 proposes guidelines for testing and measuring of the contents and emissions of tobacco products, and regulation of the contents and emissions, while Article 10 requires manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to disclose to governmental authorities information about the contents and emissions of tobacco products. They also urged countries to stay united in their prioritization of public health over the industry’s interests.

“The global tobacco treaty makes it explicitly clear that tobacco industry interference poses the single greatest threat to tobacco control. The confusing proposition by Nigeria has the potential of rolling back the united position of the African bloc on the underlying issues,” said John Stewart, deputy campaigns director with Corporate Accountability International.

Despite the Nigerian delegation’s objections, a majority of parties to the global tobacco treaty support a suite of public health provisions, including ones that protect public health policymaking from the tobacco industry’s influence. According to a WHO report released this week, parties to the treaty recognise the industry as the biggest threat to progress.

The global tobacco treaty negotiations are taking place in Greater Noida, India, from November 7-12. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is estimated to save more than 200 million lives when fully implemented.

The global tobacco treaty, known formally as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) entered into force in 2005.

To date, 179 countries and the European Union have become parties to the treaty. It contains the world’s most effective tobacco control and corporate accountability measures—estimated to save more than 200 million lives by 2050 if fully implemented.