Chan, health ministers: Use WHO FCTC to defend against tobacco industry

News release

Full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) – particularly provisions on countering tobacco industry influence – is necessary to protect people from the harms of tobacco use.

This was the unanimous opinion of panellists at a plenary session of the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore, entitled, “Counteracting challenges posed by the tobacco industry in the era of the WHO FCTC”.

“We must have full implementation of the WHO FCTC in order to protect our people,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who co-chaired the plenary with Fijian Health Minister Neil Sharma.

Article 5.3 of the international treaty obligates its 174 parties to protect their public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.

The panellists noted that the industry has become more aggressive recently as some countries have enhanced laws requiring picture health warnings on packages of tobacco products.

Since Australia’s passed its new plain packaging law, the industry has become “more extreme, more subversive, more cunning,” said Professor Jane Halton, Secretary of Australia’s Department of Health and Ageing. The law requires tobacco products to be sold in drab packages without logos and with images of tobacco-related diseases.

She said that Australia will defend itself “incredibly vigorously” against the industry’s attempt to undermine the law.

“The tobacco industry will try to stop governments, try to go to court and use social media on youngsters, but we will stand should-to-shoulder to struggle in our fight against them, because tobacco control is an important public health initiative,” said Turkish Minister of Health Recep Akdağ.

“We must fight with determination against industry intimidation,” concurred Anne-Grete Strom Ericksen, Minister of Health and Care Services of Norway.

“Public support is key,” added Ricardo Varela, Deputy Director of Foreign Policies of Uruguay.

Dr Chan emphasized that the problem was too big for health ministries alone to address. “The whole-of-government approach is extremely important,” she said.

The World Conference on Tobacco or Health will continue until 24 March 2012.


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