March 14, 2009

WHO: Tobacco evades control guidelines

The U.N. World Health Organization in Switzerland has issued a report describing tobacco industry efforts to interfere with global tobacco control policies.

In November 2008, 160 nations agreed to guidelines under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which took effect in 2003, to block tobacco industry interference in global health policies and implementation of the global tobacco treaty. However, in a report released Saturday, WHO officials said the tobacco industry has employed economic power, lobbying, marketing and media manipulation to discredit research and influence governments to promote tobacco sales.

The report said the industry uses philanthropy to foster a positive public image, as part of a campaign to interfere with tobacco control.

The WHO FCTC was intended to address what the WHO called the globalization of the tobacco epidemic, and to reaffirm the right to the highest standard of health.

Since it took effect in 2005, implementation of the FCTC has been systematically obstructed by Big Tobacco, the WHO said in a news release. The abuses of corporations like Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco have ranged from attempting to write tobacco control laws, blocking the passage of smokefree legislation, and using so-called 'corporate social responsibility' to circumvent ad bans.

The WHO said tobacco industry interference is the number one obstacle to the treaty's implementation, and ratifying countries now see protections against this interference as the backbone of the treaty.

The new guidelines call on governments to reject partnerships with the tobacco industry and avoid investing in the industry or allowing the industry to be represented on tobacco control bodies.

The WHO noted that tobacco control is, almost by definition, antithetical to the economic interests of the tobacco industry.