The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Profile: Paula Johns - Chair of the FCA Board of Directors

Paula 150pxPaula Johns - FCA Board of Directors' ChairPaula Johns is the executive director, and a founder, of the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use (ACT), based in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is also the Chair of the FCA Board of Directors.

ACT  influenced Brazil’s recent decision to ban all flavours and additives in tobacco products throughout the country because they lure many young people into starting to smoke. This is a world first and a major breakthrough for tobacco control globally. Brazil has now adopted the strongest ban on flavours and additives in the world.

WHAT DOES THE BAN MEAN FOR TOBACCO CONTROL IN BRAZIL AND GLOBALLY?

This is a global precedent that will inspire other countries. It was also a critical step in limiting the tobacco industry’s tactics for luring young people into starting to smoke.

Research from the Brazilian School of Public Health, with data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, has shown that almost 60 per cent of 13-15 year-olds experiment with flavoured cigarettes, particularly menthol.

The new law requires the banning of all flavours, such as menthol, honey, cherry, tutti-frutti and chocolate, plus additives like ammonia, sweeteners, colours, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

ACT is positive that this measure will inspire other countries. However, the measure will take two years to reach the retail level, so we need to watch the tobacco industry’s next move in case it attempts to get it reversed.

HOW DID ACT HELP BRING ABOUT THIS CHANGE?

We had been monitoring the tobacco industry and it was crystal clear that they had been inundating the market with various versions of menthol cigarettes in the last couple of years.

We were not involved in the decision itself, which was made by the regulatory agency known as the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). But by supporting ANVISA, among other things, ACT played a key mobilising role. We:

  • Held meetings with relevant authorities to discuss the benefits of the decision.
  • Did polling to determine public support for an additives ban (75 percent of the population, of which 66 percent were smokers, supported the move).
  • Mobilised medical societies, consumers’ and children’s right’s organisations to send letters supporting the additives ban.
  • Participated in public hearings about ANVISA’s proposed resolutions.
  • Countered an industry - funded mass media campaign through our Limit Tobacco campaign (www.limitetabaco.org.br).
  • Provided media advocacy around the decision.

ANVISA announced its decision on 13 March 2012. Tobacco manufacturers have 18 months once the decision is officially published to take their flavoured cigarettes off Brazil’s market, and 24 months to take other flavoured tobacco products from shop shelves.

WHAT ELSE DOES ACT WORK ON?

ACT works hard to support the effective implementation of the FCTC and its protocols in Brazil.

Effective FCTC implementation is crucial because, although Brazil has managed to decrease its smoking prevalence from around 38 percent (1989) to 17 percent (2008), the country still has 25 million smokers, and many teenagers are beginning to smoke. In some cities girls are smoking more than boys.

Our campaigns focus on:

  • Price and taxes (Article 6)
  • Total advertising ban (Article 13)
  • Smoke-free environments (Article 8)
  • Monitoring the tobacco industry (Article 5.3)
  • Liability (Article 19)
  • Additives (Article 9 & 10)
  • Alternative livelihoods for tobacco growers (Article 17)

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES YOUR ORGANISATION FACES?

Tobacco industry interference and lack of political will in some sectors of the government are our greatest challenges. Brazil is the largest tobacco leaf exporter in the world, and family farmers grow the tobacco. The tobacco industry uses some farmers’ associations as front groups to counter the adoption of tobacco control measures.

WHAT SUCCESSES CAN YOU SHARE?

Along with the additives ban, ACT also played a key role in helping Brazil recently (December 2011) update its national Tobacco Act with measures that include: 100 percent smoke-free environments; regular increases in taxes and prices until 2015; and advertising restrictions including point-of-sale  (but still allowing for  activities that are deemed ‘corporate social responsibility’ and display of cigarette packs). Although not officially incorporated then, ACT also played an important role in Brazil’s ratification of the FCTC in 2005.

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