The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

UK issues new rules to embassies on support to tobacco industry

UK diplomats must avoid a long list of actions that could be seen to support the tobacco industry, according to new instructions from their government.

The 'guidance' was issued on 6 March 2014, two years after ASH-UK revealed that the UK Ambassador to Panama was lobbying his government on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT).

Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control advises Parties to protect against tobacco industry interference in setting government policy. The FCTC has 177 Parties, including the UK.

Among the activities that the document says UK Government posts must avoid:

  • Be involved in activities with the specific purpose of promoting the sale of tobacco or tobacco related products (including promotional goods);
  • Encourage investment in the tobacco industry, or provide any assistance in helping tobacco companies influence non-discriminatory local business policies to their advantage (e.g.: taxation, plain/standardised packaging, etc);
  • Accept any direct or indirect funding from the tobacco industry.

"It is absolutely vital that British diplomats do not support the export of the tobacco epidemic," said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of FCA member ASH-UK. "The UK and the US are the twin homes of the tobacco epidemic. Two of the world’s top five tobacco multinationals are based in the UK, and use this country as a base to push their lethal products to the rest of the world."

"The very welcome UK guidelines set out best practice and we urge all other countries to adopt similar guidelines as a matter of urgency," added Deborah.

The document also advises government posts to ‘encourage and support the fullest implementation of the provisions of the FCTC, including the implementation of comprehensive, evidence-based tobacco control strategies.’

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