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Archive for November, 2012

Strengthening FCTC implementation: An overview from Seoul

27 Nov, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Francis Thompson
Framework Convention Alliance

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of the Parties (COP) held its fifth session in Seoul, Korea from the 12th to the 17th of November 2012. There were a number of important developments, both in adopting new policy guidance for the 176 Parties to the FCTC and in discussing how to speed up implementation.

On the policy side, the highest-profile decision was the adoption of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade (commonly referred to as the ITP). This new treaty, which has been under formal negotiation since 2008, will come into force once it has been ratified by 40 Parties, a process which may take several years. A comparatively small amount of money ($350,000) was set aside in the 2014-15 budget for preparing the first Meeting of the Parties to the ITP, with the Convention Secretariat being mandated to raise further money to prepare implementation.

In a related discussion, the COP rejected an application by Interpol to become an official observer at the COP because of concerns about Interpol’s decision, announced in June 2012, to accept a €15 million donation from Philip Morris International. This rejection was both highly embarrassing to Interpol, and an important signal to governments, as the tobacco industry is widely expected to attempt to offer ‘technical assistance’ for ITP implementation.

ITP adoption was largely a formality, the heavy lifting of finalising the text of the Protocol having been completed in April. On tax and price measures (Article 6 of the Convention), the task facing the COP was considerably more complicated: an intersessional working group was proposing draft guidelines that were seen as generally good but needed some further editing. The draft was referred to an open-ended working group that met in parallel to the two main committees of the COP.

In the end, the Parties were unable to complete the drafting process, but did adopt a ‘set of guiding principles and recommendations’ – which is expected to be useful for tobacco tax advocacy. In particular, the adopted document recommends regular adjustments to tax levels to take into account both inflation and income growth; specific tax systems, or mixed specific/ad valorem systems with a minimum specific tax floor; and long-term tobacco tax policies with tax rate targets. Australia undertook to pay for further work on the guidelines in 2013.

Other developments on the policy front:

  • The COP established an expert group on liability issues (Article 19), which should make recommendations on how to help Parties pursue litigation against the tobacco industry;
  • Draft policy options and recommendations on sustainable alternative livelihoods for tobacco growers (Articles 17/18) were referred back to the relevant working group, as the Framework Convention Alliance and a number of Parties had advocated. The tobacco industry-funded International Tobacco Growers’ Association had run an extensive scare campaign against this draft in tobacco-growing regions of Africa, South America and Asia.
  • On the regulation of product ingredients and emissions (Articles 9 and 10), further partial guidelines on ignition propensity and disclosure of information were adopted. The working group will pursue discussions in 2014-15, although its meetings will be limited      (key facilitators will meet with up to two representatives of each of WHO six regions), which will be accompanied by online communication.
  • On smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, the COP reached no particular conclusions, but is asking the WHO for further reports.

Discussions on FCTC implementation were more fruitful than at past sessions of the COP, with a number of important decisions taken.

First, Parties agreed to set up a working group to strengthen sustainable implementation of the FCTC – in other words, to look at why Parties have had such difficulty in getting technical assistance and financial resources for FCTC implementation. The working group can be expected to make recommendations on how to unlock domestic and international support for the FCTC.

Second, Parties agreed in principle to set up what is known as an implementation review mechanism – in other words, a formal system for reviewing Parties’ biennial reports.

Third, building on 2011 achievements, the Secretariat was mandated to continue promoting the FCTC within the UN system through the work of the UN inter-agency task force on tobacco control, which should increase the odds of tobacco control becoming a funding priority for bilateral and multilateral funders.

Fourth, as announced already in 2011, extrabudgetary funding will allow the Secretariat to pursue numerous needs assessment missions and up to six South-to-South cooperation demonstration projects in 2013.

Fifth, the Secretariat was requested to propose a comprehensive impact assessment of the first 10 years of the WHO FCTC being in effect.

The date and venue of the next COP are to be formally decided by the newly elected Bureau of the COP; Russia has offered to host the session, which is likely to be held in 2014 or early 2015.

UK Department of Health invites former BAT executive Kenneth Clarke to speak on “Trade for Better Health”

26 Nov, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Kelley Lee

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

In an email invitation to its “Health is Global, Partners Forum”, held on 22 November 2012, the UK Department of Health expressed pleasure that The Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke QC MP (Minister without portfolio and Trade Envoy) would speak on Trade for Better Health. The one-day meeting is an annual event bringing together key partners concerned with the UK’s Health is Global Strategy.

The DOH’s Global Health Team, however, could not have picked a more controversial British politician to headline its annual partners’ meeting. Clarke has been a Member of Parliament since 1970, serving as minister under the Thatcher, Major and now Cameron governments. His popularity has, in large part, been due to his personae as a somewhat jovial uncle. The controversy that has dogged his career, some argue preventing him from becoming Prime Minister, has been his close relationship with the tobacco industry.

After leaving office in 1998, Clarke became a director and deputy chairman of British American Tobacco (BAT), a position he occupied until 2007. The release of internal company documents led to allegations that he accepted hospitality from BAT while Chancellor of the Exchequer, in one case, thanking then BAT Chairman Patrick Sheehy for a “note and folder”, and promising to discuss it with the Treasury.

After joining the company, he played a leading role in expanding access to overseas markets such as Vietnam. When allegations broke of the company’s complicity in cigarette smuggling, Clarke defended BAT to the House of Commons Health Select Committee as “a company of integrity” and “an extremely good corporate citizen”. Evidence of smuggling has continued to accumulate including on Vietnam.

Upon returning to office as Justice Minister in 2010, and allegedly under pressure from business lobby groups, Clarke was accused of trying to delay and limit the jurisdiction of the Serious Fraud Office under the Bribery Act 2010.

All of this would suggest that Clarke is no friend to any strategy to promote “global health”. Yet the evident delight of the Global Health Team in inviting Clarke may reflect a shift in how the DOH is interpreting its mandate under this strategy. Launched with much fanfare by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, development lay at the heart of the Labour government’s global health strategy. As described in The Lancet, “better health in poor countries is good for our own health, as well as being essential to improving wellbeing and tackling poverty globally.”

Under the present Coalition government, and during a period of economic austerity, global health has cosied up to trade policy.  Global health is a market opportunity, in other words, for UK plc to earn a few pounds.

This latest incarnation of Clarke, as a global health partner, is perhaps unsurprising. After all, Clarke is no stranger to irony. As health secretary from 1988-90 he remained infamous for his cigar smoking and less than healthy lifestyle. He was chancellor, responsible for ensuring that Customs and Excise were not cheated of its revenue, throughout the period when BAT is accused of smuggling billions of cigarettes worldwide. He was the company director who brokered the BAT-sponsored creation of the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nottingham University. However, this didn’t stop the company maintaining operations in Burma and Uzbekistan.

He is now minister without a portfolio which, it would seem, gives him a free hand to have a jovial laugh at the expense of the DoH’s global health strategy.

Global tobacco treaty meetings marred by industry interference

20 Nov, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

This article is republished from Citizen News Service under a Creative Commons License. Original link: http://www.citizen-news.org/2012/11/global-tobacco-treaty-meetings-marred.html

Governments to industry: you’re not welcome
The global tobacco treaty negotiations concluded on 17th November 2012 after a week of Big Tobacco’s attempts to derail, distract, and intimidate 175 countries from strengthening lifesaving measures required by the public health treaty. Despite the industry’s underhanded tactics, governments made concrete progress. On the second day of the meetings, the ratifying countries kicked Big Tobacco and its front group representatives out of committee meetings after members of civil society, including Corporate Accountability International, exposed the lobbyists who infiltrated the meetings under the guise of “public badges.” Article 5.3 of the treaty expressly prohibits tobacco industry interference in public health policy, and thus, their presence in the meetings.

“Big Tobacco blatantly obstructed progress during negotiations by co-opting governments and maneuvering official seats on delegations. Its disregard for the treaty was on full display from the halls of the conference center to front group press conferences,” said John Stewart, Challenge Big Tobacco Campaign Director. “We applaud countries for standing up to Big Tobacco and showing them the door.”

Tobacco industry presence was noted on several delegations at this year’s meetings including the Vietnam delegation, which included two executives from the Vietnam Tobacco Association.

In another example, despite attempts by the National Tobacco Authority (NTA), a government agency in the Philippines that promotes tobacco industry interests, to remain on the delegation, civil society pressured the government of the Philippines to exclude NTA members from its official delegation in Seoul.

“We commend the government of the Philippines for doing the right thing in this case, said Irene Reyes public health lawyer at Health Justice in the Philippines. “And this is a win for Article 5.3 of the treaty which denies official status to any organization that has a direct affiliation with the tobacco industry.”

Countries stood firm against Big Tobacco’s obstructionist tactics and adopted measures that when fully implemented will save 200 million lives by 2050, including:

* Most notably, the first protocol to the treaty which sets out measures to rein in illicit trade in tobacco products. Illicit trade undermines tobacco control and costs governments billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, law enforcement and health care expenditures. It will also continue to impede the tobacco industry’s ability to engage in the illicit trade of its own products, which opens up new markets for its deadly brands and allows it to evade taxes.
* Countries took first steps to hold the tobacco industry liable for its abuses, exposing decades of deception and opening up the potential to generate much-needed revenue to treat tobacco-related disease. These steps could fundamentally change the way the tobacco industry operates globally.
* Countries adopted a set of guiding principles and recommendations that provide a solid basis for better tobacco tax policies around the world.
* Guidelines were adopted on disclosure of the toxic ingredients of its products.
* Parties reiterated their determination to prioritize public health over trade and resolved to strengthen action to protect public health policies from Big Tobacco.

Citizen News Service – CNS

More analysis:

The ‘diverse, dynamic new world of global tobacco control?’ An analysis of participation in the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, open access research article. Click here

Tobacco control hit by cash cuts: deaths from smoking will likely increase for world’s poor Medical News Today

Not just hazardous to health, but also truth: ‘tobacco lobby lies’ imperil WHO, COP5 InterakAksyon.com

Clouding the UK policy debate on plain packaging

20 Nov, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Kelley Lee

Associate Fellow, Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House

In July 2012, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) launched a campaign against the UK Department of Health’s consultation on the plain packaging of tobacco products.  The UK is one of JTI’s top five markets worldwide and there are fears that the UK, and potentially other European Union members, will follow the Australian decision to adopt plain packaging.

JTI’s campaign has so far been undertaken in two phases.  The first phase claimed that the consultation process was ‘a series of individually flawed consumer surveys’, supported by “a panel of ‘experts’ and their subjective views on what smokers might do”.  Plain packaging was described as having “no evidence” to support it and, in an accompanying press release, JTI UK Managing Director Martin Southgate hoped that “the Department of Health will re-think its approach and common sense will prevail”. The second phase of the campaign, rolled out in September 2012, focused on counterfeiting, and the industry’s predicted impact on the livelihoods of local small businesses and the national economy.  In full-page advertisements, cartoon-like images of ‘standardised’ cigarette packets were used to raise concern about how easily they would be copied.

JTI’s criticism of the lack of evidence behind plain packaging, citing the importance of ‘evidence-based policy’, is ironic given the industry’s own track record on the undermining of scientific evidence and policy processes.  This latest campaign narrows the scope of acceptable evidence to a particular type of policy evaluation (post implementation).  Given that Australia will be the first country to adopt plain packaging, the type of evidence demanded is not yet possible.  Importantly, the campaign continues a tradition by the industry of ignoring substantial bodies of unfavourable evidence.  It is well-known, for example, that consumers respond directly to packaging, particularly young people who tend to have a stronger response to colour, logos and images on cigarette packs.  Other evidence shows that plain packaging enhances the impact of health warnings.

When applied to the counterfeiting issue, JTI’s call for evidence-based policy is shown to be even more tenuous.  The company speculates that “standardising packs will make them even easier to fake and cost taxpayers millions more than the £3billion lost in unpaid duty last year.”  If assessed by the company’s own standard of proof (i.e. evidence following policy implementation), this claim hardly stands up.  More importantly, there is substantial evidence suggesting that the illicit cigarette trade is supported by tobacco companies themselves.   Plain packets will still require large pictorial health warnings and covert security markings, making them as difficult to counterfeit as branded packs.  None of this, however, is mentioned in JTI’s campaign.  Its efforts to cloud public debate on the issue are plain.

New interactive resource ‘Tobacco Body’

7 Nov, 12 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

A new project has been developed by the Cancer Society of Finland. Intended primarily for schools and teachers to use for health education, it is an interactive website that shows the impact of smoking on different parts of the body.

Click on the picture below to view the website, located at http://tobaccobody.fi.

Please note: this website may be unsuitable for viewing in some cultures as the models used in the website are dressed only in underwear.

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