The global conference on tobacco control starts today

The global conference on tobacco control starts today

The Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) today opens its ninth session (COP 9). One significant point to be discussed by the Parties is a potential new funding strategy, seen as a possible means of strengthening and expanding the support that can be offered to Parties of the global health treaty.

Parties at COP9 are expected to consider how to address a common problem described by many countries – the lack of sufficient financial resources to adequately strengthen tobacco control measures. This will mean a plan to establish a capital investment fund  is high on the COP9 agenda. The Parties will decide on the adoption of a mechanism for new income streams to help fight the man-made tobacco epidemic.

The proposal offers the opportunity to raise a targeted 50 million US dollars for the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). A similar fund will be proposed for adoption at the second session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to take place later this month – but in the case of the Protocol, the fund proposed will be for 25 million US dollars to strengthen implementation of that treaty.

While the tobacco industry looks to stir up confusion and falsely parades itself as a solution to harmful tobacco consumption, the Parties to the Convention are expected to continue pushing forward with comprehensive implementation of the WHO FCTC as the real solution to the tobacco epidemic. Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo says, “Tobacco poses an ongoing problem for development initiatives, because it hits the most vulnerable hardest and strains overstretched health systems, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The COP9 discussions from 8 to 13 November bring together Parties, representing countries, United Nations agencies, other intergovernmental organizations and civil society. The participants will be  exchanging their experiences in implementing tobacco control measures and reducing the prevalence of tobacco use. They will also be looking at strategies that improve tobacco control efforts, amid attempts by the tobacco industry to interfere in ending the tobacco epidemic that is killing over 8 million people annually.

The most recent Global Progress Report, launched last week, has also been prepared for the Conference.  A total of 148 Parties reported on the comprehensive tobacco control measures contained in the treaty. For example, in relation to progress on Article 11, two-thirds of Parties confirmed that the required health warnings are being displayed on tobacco product packaging and, 17 countries confirmed that they have adopted the requirements for plain packaging of tobacco products.

Parties have reported that they have struggled to introduce comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans. It is observed by many of them that interference by the tobacco industry persists, and continue to pose a major obstacle to Parties in their implementation of the Convention.

In her keynote speech at the opening of COP9, Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the Convention Secretariat referred to the on-going COP 26, on Climate Change. There are important parallels between the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the WHO FCTC.

Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo said, “Both treaties aim to protect present and future generations. It’s clear that tobacco damages the environment throughout its life cycle, from crop to post-consumer waste, contributing to deforestation, desertification, greenhouse emissions and plastic contamination. But probably the most important point shared at both COPs, is that the tobacco epidemic and climate change are both manmade and preventable.”

The WHO FCTC is the first legally binding international treaty to promote public health, it was  negotiated under the auspices of WHO and adopted in 2003 and has since been a key legal instrument in supporting Parties in their quest to advance public health and end the tobacco epidemic.

Since it came into force in 2005, the Convention has been a powerful tool in global tobacco-control efforts, resulting in national strategies and legislation that have reduced tobacco use prevalence and sales of tobacco products, including protecting minors and the broader population through enactment of smoke-free legislations in enclosed public and workplaces, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and the implementation of large graphic warnings and plain packaging.

Immediately after COP9, the second Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products will be convened, 15-18 November 2021. The Protocol  is a separate treaty expanding Article 15 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

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Source: FCTC WHO