The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Dutch court loss produces a win

Image: Youth Smoking Prevention FoundationA court in the Netherlands has denied a civil society suit against the government for its contacts with the tobacco industry, but the action produced a new policy that lays out rules for future interactions.

The Youth Smoking Prevention Foundation challenged government dealings with the industry on the basis of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The article requires that “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.

Just days before the court heard both parties last September, the government distributed a document, ‘Clarification of implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO-Framework Convention’, to both houses of Parliament.

Now in writing

“Although the wording of the document is at some points a little vague, it is now written down how government at all levels – national, regional and local – must behave in relation to the tobacco industry,” said Wanda de Kanter, co-founder and chair of the Foundation.

“It means that from now on the doors of government are closed for the tobacco industry and its lobbyists. This will end the extensive influence of the tobacco industry that time and again tries to raise doubts by issuing defective research and reports,” she added.

“That document is here to stay, regardless of today’s court ruling.”

According to Chris Bostic, Deputy Director for Policy at ASH (US), “For me, the importance of the case is the change it provoked in national law. And the lesson is that litigation can be beneficial even if you lose. (The tobacco industry learned this decades ago).”

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