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Tobacco Companies Seeking To Influence Policy Are Violating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Tobacco industry representatives are continuing to meet with and are attempting to influence government officials in many countries.

Tobacco industry representatives are continuing to meet with and are attempting to influence government officials in many countries, which is a direct violation of those countries’ commitments under the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), according to a report presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Austria.1

Luke Clancy, MD, of the Tobacco Free Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland, said that the tobacco industry’s access to tobacco control policy makers has had a harmful impact on public health and provides the companies with a direct avenue to influence public policy.

The tobacco industry manipulates contacts in government under the guise of helping national governments negotiate harmonization of tobacco excise tax deadlines, for example, but Dr Clancy said that this directly contravenes FCTC Article 5.3, which aims to prevent industry from influencing policy development.

Tobacco use remains “stubbornly high” in Europe, despite the existence of widely recognized and effective interventions, such as raising the price of tobacco products through taxation, adopting smoke-free legislation to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace, and banning advertising and promotion of tobacco use, said Dr Clancy.

In a related press conference, Dr Clancy indicated that although all 27 European Union member state countries have initiated some type of strategy to become smoke free, there is still much work to be done.2

“Despite this progress, the prevalence of smoking in Ireland is 18.5%. The prevalence of smoking in Europe as a whole remains at approximately 29% of the adult population, and seems to be increasing among females in some European countries,” he said. “Ireland hopes to be tobacco free by 2025. Full implementation of the WHO FCTC recommendations may not be enough to achieve this in Ireland.”

WHO recommends the monitoring of smoking and the provision of cessation programs, but the implementation of services to support cessation of tobacco use in line with Article 14 of the FCTC “can and should be significantly improved,” said Dr Clancy. He contended that the tobacco industry and its allies have worked to oppose price increases by attempting to persuade finance ministers that a price increase will lead to a loss of revenue through an increase in smuggling despite evidence to the contrary.

Smoke-free policies can achieve their positive effect by educating the public about the health benefits of quitting smoking, limiting opportunities to smoke, and promoting an attitude of denormalization of smoking, he concluded.

1. Clancy L. Tobacco Control. Paper presented at: 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer; December 2016; Vienna, Austria.
2. Clancy L. Press Conference at: 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer; December 5 2016; Vienna, Austria.

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