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Welcome to the COP10 BULLETIN.



MONDAY, 5 February 2024

In this issue:

Welcome to COP10

It has been five long years since the Conference of Parties met in person, and in those years the need for swift implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s evidence-based measures has only become more pressing. Had COP9 been held in person it would have had a full agenda. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the abridged agenda for virtual COP9, discussions on many key topics were deferred to COP10. The implication of this is an incredibly busy week ahead of us with a packed agenda that requires COP’s attention and considered decision-making. Every hour of every day we are here will be needed for constructive and productive discussion, not lengthy discussions on issues that are not a priority or diplomatic niceties. It is a week to focus on action and issues that will help with the effective and efficient implementation of the treaty.

Of course, the last five years have also meant that the tobacco industry has had time to implement new tactics to undermine, delay, and of great concern, attempt to reverse implementation of FCTC measures. The tobacco industry has invested heavily in new products, new front groups and lobbyists and has saturated social media to recruit new customers. There is nothing in their actions that supports their insidious claims of being concerned for the public’s health – they have and always will be only concerned with their profits. We urge Parties to be alert to tobacco industry interference at this COP and to be prepared to stand up and call it out when it inevitably happens.

Exceptional work has been undertaken in the past five years to ensure that COP has agenda items that if adopted will greatly improve tobacco control outcomes at the national and international level. Two key items on the COP’s agenda this week are the adoption of specific guidelines to further protect the public from tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (Article 13), and to consider forward-looking measures for those countries advanced in tobacco control (Article 2.1).

While no one expects the agenda of COP10, by itself, to put an immediate end to the epidemic of tobacco-caused death and disease, we should all be aware of the heavy responsibility on our collective shoulders. We must focus on the key decision items without delay, so let’s get to work!


Parties cite industry interference as a main barrier to FCTC implementation. Tobacco Industry interference must be exposed and governments must be held accountable to their obligations to protect policy.

The Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control and STOP recently published the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, using civil society reports from 90 countries to analyze government efforts according to a set of key indicators. It reveals that no country was immune to the industry’s intensified efforts to sway policy and policymakers to its advantage. Recommendations include a whole-of-government application of Article 5.3, banning industry CSR, improving transparency and constant vigilance.

Industry Interference at COPs:A Brief Overview

The tobacco industry has long sought to undermine the WHO’s tobacco control work, the FCTC Secretariat, and the effective implementation of the FCTC, repeatedly trying to insert itself into COP deliberations. Tobacco companies particularly dislike the provisions of Article 5.3, intended to protect public health policymaking from industry influence.

A basic principle of Article 5.3 is that “There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests and public health policy interests.” At COP3 in 2008, where the Article 5.3 Guidelines were adopted, there was a sense of optimism. Unfortunately, effective implementation of Article 5.3 by Parties remains inadequate. Yet the single biggest obstacle to effective full implementation of the FCTC is tobacco industry interference, including at COPs.

Tobacco companies have used numerous tactics to try to insert themselves into COP activities. One such tactic is funding groups to seek observer status and influence discussions. At COP5 in 2012, for example, Philip Morris International provided funding for the international police organization INTERPOL to try to promote at the meeting its favored track and trace system Codentify. INTERPOL’s application for observer status was rejected after the COP Bureau investigated the tobacco industry ties.

Pushing governments to include industry representatives or trade and finance personnel with tobacco connections in Party delegations is another industry tactic. Including industry representatives

For more recent industry interference activity, see this new report from Tobacco Tactics: Industry Influence on COP10 and MOP3

in country delegations is a clear violation of Article 5.3. After COP6, the now-director of regulatory affairs at PMI sent a congratulatory email to the team that worked to water down, prevent, or delay numerous COP proposals.

At COP7 in 2016, as detailed in a 2017 Reuters investigation, tobacco industry representatives used both overt and covert interference, including setting up a secret command post from which to lobby delegates. Also in 2016, the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) was created with funding from the PMI-funded Foundation for a Smoke-free World (FSFW). INNCO was refused observer status at COP7 and COP8, but lobbied delegates heavily via social media. Sponsoring outside “educational” events for delegates is another tactic.

At COP9, INNCO again was paid by FSFW to lobby for inclusion of “tobacco harm reduction” and again it was rejected for observer status. Another major FSFW grantee, Knowledge-Action-Change, released materials criticizing the WHO FCTC and seeking to exploit the UK’s stance on ENDs to influence discussions. Repeatedly, tobacco companies have tried to characterize themselves as “stakeholders” who should be involved in policy decisions taken at COP.

According to a recent report based on leaked industry emails, PMI is mounting efforts to influence COP10 deliberations. PMI’s Senior Vice President for external affairs reportedly urged staff to find “any connection, any lead, whether political or technical” that could be used to influence the proceedings, which he characterized as “nothing short of a systematic, methodical, prohibitionist attack on smoke-free products.” Regardless of Parties’ stances on product regulation, these industry efforts must be understood as a coordinated, continued, direct challenge to Article 5.3 and an effort to break the tobacco control movement’s solidarity against the industry.

See more details on the history of tobacco industry interference with COP.

Thanks to the Tobacco Tactics team of the Tobacco Control Research Group, at University of Bath (Raouf Alebshehy, Tom Gatehouse, Hala Alaouie, Rachel Maynard, Karin Silver)


Ruth E. Malone, RN, PhD, Professor, University of California, San Francisco, USA


The tobacco industry’s attempts to undermine public health policy are well-documented. At COP8, tobacco industry representatives registered as journalists to access sessions. In September 2021, evidence came to light that British American Tobacco (BAT) had engaged in a years-long, widespread, systematized scheme of questionable payments across 10 African countries to influence public health policies. Tobacco industry interference was also rampant during COP9.

COP10 and MOP3 are the first in-person meetings of the Parties to the WHO FCTC and the Protocol, respectively, since the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is clear evidence the tobacco industry is already moving its tentacles to interfere during the negotiations in Panama.

Nevertheless, the global public health community continues to innovate and lead the way in countering this deadly industry’s interference: from exposing it in the media, to releasing new tools for tracking industry interference in Africa, Latin America, and globally, to protecting the treaty itself.

In fact, at COP8 and MOP1 in 2018, Parties agreed on groundbreaking decisions to maximize the transparency of treaty negotiations and eliminate industry interference, enhancing Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC. Specifically, Parties decided to require members of the public, the media, and accredited observer organizations attending negotiations to submit declarations of any conflicts of interest with the tobacco industry.

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Intimidation within tobacco control

A recent study from the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group sheds light on intimidation within tobacco control. Tobacco control advocates and researchers encounter a spectrum of intimidation including media attacks, online harassment, legal threats, and even death threats. The paper highlights response strategies varying from ignoring threats to defensive adaptation and taking offensive actions. The research suggests that urgent measures are required to address and counter intimidation, and these measures include reporting and monitoring, training, establishing support networks, and fostering cross-sector collaboration. Governments, international organizations, funders, researchers, and civil society must collectively act to address and transcend the challenges posed by intimidation.

Details of the paper, for reference:

Title of the paper: “They try to suppress us, but we should be louder”: A qualitative exploration of intimidation in tobacco control

Journal: Globalization & Health


Dr Britta K Matthes, Dr Raouf Alebshehy, Prof Anna B Gilmore, Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK

Moreover, when designating representatives to meetings, each Party committed to formally indicate that it has “observed Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and has been mindful of […] the Guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3.” Parties may do this via a Declaration of Interest (DOI) form, or the format they determine to be in accordance with their internal procedures and domestic legislation.

These measures, when fully implemented by all treaty delegations, will help ensure that COP and MOP meetings are shielded from the corrosive interference of the tobacco industry. Initiatives that maximize transparency and enhance WHO FCTC implementation remain as important and necessary as ever. Party delegates who have not yet submitted their DOI forms can obtain guidance here and are encouraged to submit their forms as soon as possible.

Ensuring the strongest implementation of the WHO FCTC means ensuring that treaty decisions are made in the interest of public health, not commercial interests of the tobacco industry. We cannot allow the tobacco industry to find its way into our WHO FCTC delegations and into the halls of public health policymaking. That is why during COP9 & MOP2 Parties from the Americas region made a regional intervention on this issue, and now Parties from across regions have come together to urge fellow delegates to submit their DOIs.

For more information, Parties are encouraged to visit the COP10 Resource Hub developed by a coalition of well-respected public health organizations not affiliated with the tobacco industry, some of whom have been longtime observers to the WHO FCTC process.

For the sake of the integrity of the treaty, to ensure public policy that truly puts people’s health first, and to save lives from this deadly industry, we urge all Parties to submit their DOI forms as soon as possible.


Daniel Dorado, Tobacco Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability, Quito, Ecuador

Irene Patricia Reyes, Tobacco Industry Denormalization Program Officer, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Manila, Philippines

Leonce Dieudonne Sessou, Executive Secretary, African Tobacco Control Alliance, Lome, Togo

Keltie Vance, Deputy Campaigns Director, Corporate Accountability, Boston, United States

Kids Using Smartphones in Classroom
Social Media Network, Comments and Likes Background

Tobacco Companies Targeting Kids, Generating Billions of Views on Instagram, Facebook, X and TikTok

Over the past several years, as Parties have increasingly adopted the proven measures called for by the WHO FCTC and its implementation guidelines, tobacco companies have shifted to social media to aggressively market addictive products online. Social media is the perfect medium for tobacco companies: it’s unregulated, it crosses borders and it’s extremely popular with young people.

Alarmingly, two of the world’s largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) are generating billions of views across a variety of social media platforms, according to a recent report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The report, #SponsoredbyBigTobacco, outlines how the two tobacco giants have targeted more than 60 countries with expansive marketing campaigns for Velo, a nicotine pouch from British American Tobacco, Vuse, an e-cigarette from BAT and IQOS, a heated tobacco product from PMl. Forty percent of the audience engaging with BAT and PMI marketing content on social media are young people under the age of 25.

Content promoting Velo, Vuse and IQOS has been viewed more than 3.4 billion times across Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok, with content primarily appearing on Instagram. Social media marketing for these three brands has been viewed by more than 385 million people which includes 150 million youth and 16 million teens under the age of 18.

The report reveals a menu of tactics used by the two global tobacco companies to target young people online. These tactics include direct product marketing from popular Instagram accounts run by tobacco companies, paid advertising, and sponsorships for music festivals, sporting events, and other lifestyle events.

According to the report, tobacco companies also work with a vast network of influencers and content creators to market their brands online, in direct violation of policies

“tobacco companies also work with a vast network of influencers and content creators to market their brands online, in direct violation of policies from Facebook and Instagram”

from Facebook and Instagram. To maximize reach, impressions and authenticity, tobacco companies leverage a mix of influencers – from micro-influencers with around 1,000 followers to well-known celebrities with millions of followers. Tobacco companies also seek out influencers with a variety of interests to post about trending topics and reach an expansive audience of young people who would otherwise likely not see tobacco or nicotine content on social media.

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A new report from Vital Strategies’ Tobacco Enforcement and Reporting Movement (TERM), a digital media monitoring system for tobacco in India, Indonesia, and Mexico, uncovers the latest tobacco marketing tactics online—from a lifestyle YouTube web

series subtly promoting tobacco to “dark social” messaging apps like WhatsApp being used to facilitate tobacco purchases. The report also looks at the next frontier of tobacco marketing, identifying what technological innovations like the metaverse may bring and offering examples of early metaverse activities by tobacco companies in India and Indonesia. Findings highlight the need for tobacco control stakeholders to keep abreast of these innovations, and to counter and address tobacco marketing using these advancements. They can be used to support discussions around newly introduced guidelines on digital entertainment marketing at this year’s COP10.


Nandita Murukutla, Vice President, Global Policy and Research, Vital Strategies.

Urgent action is needed by Parties to cooperate with each other in curbing Big Tobacco’s egregious marketing of addictive products to young people and to ensure that digital media communication platforms, such as those owned by social media companies, are required to identify and remove content that constitutes advertising, promotion and sponsorship of these products.

As Parties meet in Panama, it is urgent for COP10 to adopt the draft decision and the proposed specific guidelines on cross-border marketing and tobacco depictions in entertainment media. Doing so will help Parties to more effectively ban, or enforce existing bans, on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship for tobacco and nicotine products, including on social media.

Urgent action is needed by Parties to cooperate with each other in curbing Big Tobacco’s egregious marketing of addictive products to young people and to ensure that digital media communication platforms, such as those owned by social media companies, are required to identify and remove content that constitutes advertising, promotion and sponsorship of these products.

As Parties meet in Panama, it is urgent for COP10 to adopt the draft decision and the proposed specific guidelines on cross-border marketing and tobacco depictions in entertainment media. Doing so will help Parties to more effectively ban, or enforce existing bans, on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship for tobacco and nicotine products, including on social media.


Vice President of the International Legal Consortium (ILC), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, USA

Global Tobacco Index Finds Governments are Still Pandering to the Tobacco Industry

Although the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines were adopted 14 years ago to protect tobacco control efforts from being undermined by the tobacco industry, most governments have not fully utilized them. The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, which appraised 90 countries on their implementation of Article 5.3, found most governments pander to the industry, accept charity from it, provide it with incentives, and compromise on tobacco control and public health policies.

The Index, a civil society report, shows a worsening trend

in tobacco industry interference, and no country has been

spared. The main findings of the latest Index are:

  • Twenty-nine countries showed improvements, 43 countries showed a deterioration, while eight remained unchanged in their Index scores.
  • Bolivia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Tanzania and Zambia reported the tobacco industry sabotaged efforts to pass comprehensive WHO FCTC-compliant policies.
  • Non-health departments, especially finance, commerce and customs,are easy targets for the tobacco industry. Some may have compromised their policies because they were swayed by the industry's exaggerated claims of its economic contribution or they believed misleading industry narratives, such as claims that illicit tobacco trade would worsen if tobacco taxes were increased.
  • Many governments still accepted CSR handouts from the tobacco industry. Some collaborated with the industry on sponsored environmental campaigns.
  • Transparency and accountability remained a problem across most countries.
  • There was little publicly available information on countries’ programs to consistently raise awareness of Article 5.3.
  • Legislators in many countries have made themselves vulnerable to industry interference by accepting tobacco industry donations for political campaigns or being involved in the tobacco business, including taking positions in the industry via a revolving door between industry and government.

The top five countries taking steps to protect public health from industry interference in tobacco control policy are Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, France and the Netherlands. These countries, spread across different regions, each exercised their political will to protect public health.

Non-Parties to the WHO FCTC, namely the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Switzerland, all faced high levels of industry interference. Their high scores indicate that they acted in favour of the industry.

Governments must act cohesively to stop industry interference. They must not endorse or participate in industry-sponsored activities and must instead limit their interactions with the tobacco industry to only when strictly necessary for regulation and control.

They must denormalise and ban CSR activities, reject non-binding agreements with the industry, divest from investments in the tobacco industry, stop giving incentives to the industry and implement a code of conduct or guidance to provide a firewall between the industry and government.

The Index is a civil society report prepared by the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control and STOP. Its findings will be presented on 5 February 2024 at a side event (13:30–14:45) on Article 5.3 during COP10. Find out your country’s ranking in the Index and read the global, regional and country reports. You can also visit SEATCA’s booth at COP for more details.


Mary Assunta

Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, SEATCA , Bangkok, Thailand



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