12 Aug 2008
Article 5.3: Protection of tobacco control policy from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Tobacco industry court challenges are “a battle that pitches the power and authority of governments against the power of corporations”.
– WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, WCTOH 2015, 18 March 2015
The tobacco industry has a long history of undermining tobacco control policy.
While the tobacco industry promotes disease, death and environmental destruction worldwide, public health policy aims to do the opposite by protecting people’s health. No doubt there is constant conflict between the two.
To prevent industry interference, Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is devoted to protecting the public health policies of FCTC Parties from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
Tobacco industry tactics
For many years the tobacco industry has subverted attempts by governments and the WHO to protect public health.
The industry’s constant interference in countries’ tobacco packaging and labelling laws is a good example of how tobacco companies constantly try to undermine Article 5.3.
Some other tobacco industry tactics include:
- Making political contributions and providing payments, gifts and perks to government officials or employees.
- Direct lobbying through undisclosed meetings and other forms of engagement with government officials and employees, and indirect lobbying through front groups and use of the press.
- Cosying up to other ministries outside health (agriculture, trade, finance, etc.) to undermine health regulations
- Gaining representation on policy-setting and law-making bodies, and using this representation as a means of thwarting development or implementation of strong tobacco control measures.
- Funding or developing materials for tobacco control programs in schools and public education programs to reshape regulation, improve corporate image and establish relationships with governments and other legitimate partners.
- Engaging in public-private partnerships with governments, allowing easier access to government officials for lobbying and to attain an air of legitimacy.
- Initiating non-binding agreements with governments, and adopting voluntary codes of conduct to use as lobbying levers that prevent the adoption of formal legislation.
- Initiating commercially driven corporate social responsibility programs to enhance status with local communities and the press, and influence regulators and politicians.
- Manipulating research and promoting spurious science to cast doubt on the deadly health effects of tobacco use.
- Legal action at the national and, increasingly, the international level to intimidate governments attempting to enact tobacco control measures.
The work of the FCTC COP
In November 2008, the third session of the FCTC Conference of the Parties’ (COP), in Durban, South Africa, adopted guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3. The guidelines are for the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry [decision FCTC/COP3(7)].
The guidelines are based on 4 principles:
- Principle 1: There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.
- Principle 2: Parties, when dealing with the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, should be accountable and transparent.
- Principle 3: Parties should require the tobacco industry and those working to further its interests to operate and act in a manner that is accountable and transparent.
- Principle 4: Because their products are lethal, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses.
Art. 5.3 will be on the agenda of COP7 in November 2016. This includes a report from the Convention Secretariat on the level of tobacco industry engagement in key international organizations, and their impact. It includes recommendations to strengthen international coordination and TI monitoring and provide additional technical support to Parties.
FCA support for Article 5.3
FCA representatives have attended all sessions of the FCTC COP, and in doing so have contributed substantially to the development of Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
In addition, FCA regularly publishes information about tobacco industry interference.
TobaccoTactics was established in 2012 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath as an academic resource that monitors the tobacco industry and charts its influence in public health, scientific research, and policy regulation.
See also the websites of Corporate Accountability International and the FCTC Secretariat.
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