The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Good and bad news noted at EURO meeting on FCTC implementation

Point of sale display in PragueEuropean Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control delivered good and bad news at this week’s regional meeting on implementation. 

 On one hand, they reported that national parliaments are increasingly likely to block proposed tobacco control measures as lobbying by the tobacco industry accelerates.

 At the same time, adoption in March by the European Union of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) has raised the bar for the region in terms of FCTC implementation, Parties noted at the meeting, 18-21 March in Budapest. 

65 percent warnings

The TPD introduced mandatory warnings covering 65 percent of the top surface of both the front and back of cigarette packages. It also banned all characterising flavours, including menthol. 

The TPD will be implemented in all 28 EU Member States. Representatives of two of them – Ireland and the UK – stressed that the Directive authorises Member States to go beyond the mandatory measures, allowing them to introduce standardised plain packaging. Both those Parties have taken steps towards introducing plain packs. 

Finally on the positive side, it was noted that Parties which had already introduced display bans at points of sale had all won legal challenges to date.

Illicit trade protocol

Parties also focussed on ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco (known as ITP), noting that 21 of the 54 signatories are European. None of the EURO signatories believed it would be possible to ratify the agreement before July due to the time-consuming need for multiple ministries within each Party, including health, finance and foreign affairs, to engage in ratification. 

Lack of capacity and expertise in understanding the complex technical details of the tracking and tracing provisions of the ITP were identified as a further challenge to swift ratification. 

Parties also reviewed progress regarding FCTC Articles 8, 6, 11, 13 and 14. Of particular interest were the results of a survey showing that daily smoking prevalence in Hungary had decreased from 28 percent in 2012 to 18.5 percent (a drop of 35 percent) after that country introduced a comprehensive series of FCTC measures. 

E-cigs at COP6

Following the often polarised debate during revision of the TPD over regulating electronic cigarettes, many Parties expressed an interest in discussing the products in the context of the FCTC. The Convention Secretariat announced that electronic cigarettes would feature on the agenda of COP6, scheduled for October 2014 in Moscow.

This week’s meeting was organised by the FCTC Secretariat and kindly hosted by the Hungarian Ministry of Health. Representatives from the World Bank, the UNDP and UNCTAD also attended. 

The WHO EURO region will next meet in May 2014 to coordinate an expert group to build on the success of the 2013 Ashgabat Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and to discuss the goal of creating a tobacco-free Europe by 2040. 

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Previous article - Industry interference weakens EU tobacco control measures

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