Polygonal background


Saturday, 10 February 2024

In this issue:



Turkey Delicate Geometric Orchid

Orchid Award

To Panama for their hospitality, leadership, commitment to tobacco control, and resistance to tobacco industry interference

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To the Philippines for its brazen use of tobacco industry tactics of obstinate dispute and delay throughout the COP

Photo credit: Geoff T. Fong, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Celebrating Achievements, Acknowledging Challenges, and Looking Ahead to COP11

By the time everyone reads this, many delegates will be mentally checked out and have one foot on the plane home. It’s been a long and intense week of drafting groups, evening sessions, editing by committees, and debates on the definition of consensus, but… we are almost done – almost.

Because, of course, there is usually one last issue that creeps up on the final points to discuss in Committee B, perhaps even in the final plenary. We shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back until the very last decision is taken, and that could be at 6:00 pm on Saturday evening – so we will need to hang in there for one more full day.

Let’s step back and take stock of this jam-packed week: there have been significant achievements at COP10, most notably discussions and agreement on forward looking measures for tobacco control, the environment, human rights, liability, and a Voluntary Implementation Peer Review and Support Mechanism, – or VIPRSM for short…. Say that three times fast!

There were disappointments too, such as the COP’s decision to defer a decision on articles 9 and 10 to COP11 and just the amount of diversion and distraction that seemed intentionally disruptive at times.

On a more positive note we also witnessed the Pacific Island Countries consistently show leadership, integrity, unity and determination. It was great to see the small islands come together to uphold the FCTC and get the best COP outcomes possible. The African region, with the obvious exception of Parties who align with industry policies, also stepped up to support strong FCTC measures and clearly state that young people cannot be sacrificed for profit.

The overwhelming majority of delegates worked hard to advance our common cause of closing the still gigantic gap between the promise of the FCTC and the reality of its under-implementation.

This is a solid foundation on which to build. Our thanks to the staff of the Convention Secretariat, who put in extraordinarily long hours all week and to the Government of Panama for being exemplary hosts for COP10. Safe travels to all, (not before Saturday evening) and see you in 2025 – which will be here much sooner than we all think!


Photo credit: Geoff T. Fong, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Tobacco control as a key agenda of sustainable development

As COP10 draws to a close, we must build connections across sectors and seize the opportunity to further embed tobacco control within the sustainable development movement, at the upcoming UN Summit of the Future and High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

One of the most salient topics in the world today is a call for multilateralism and coherent global governance. This week, we were pleased to witness progress towards several COP10 Decisions that promote stronger synergies between the FCTC and other UN mechanisms. These frameworks provide the world with tools to accelerate progress towards health, human development, human rights and environmental objectives that will impact future generations.

Tobacco control is a multi-faceted sustainable development issue, however the harmful multi-sectoral impact of tobacco, while recognised by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), is not adequately addressed in our collective response. Indeed, the global progress in the implementation of the FCTC identified insufficient intersectoral cooperation as a key barrier to implementation.

With new decisions adopted by COP10 relating to the environment and human rights, there is greater responsibility on Parties and civil society to increase our efforts to build intersectoral networks to support FCTC implementation.

Fortunately, 2024 provides an opportunity to promote global cooperation to accelerate FCTC implementation: The United Nations Summit of the Future and outcome document “Pact for the Future”. In 2024, the annex Declaration on Future Generations will also be negotiated and endorsed by countries in the lead-up to the UN Summit in September.

This process builds upon the UN human rights and environmental treaties, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the UN resolution 69/313 which notes “that, as part of a comprehensive strategy of prevention and control, price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health-care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries”. If the Summit of the Future will fully achieve its goals, the WHO FCTC must be sufficiently integrated in this process along with other UN treaties.

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Alexander Wright, Head of Global Policy and Programmes, Cancer Research UK, London, UK

Laurent Huber, Executive Director, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Washington, D.C. USA

Cigarette butts

COP’s Role in Synergizing the WHO FCTC Art 18 and the UN Plastics Treaty

The United Nations (UN) Plastics Treaty is currently under negotiation and will finalize its treaty text by December 2024. Cigarette butts, primarily made of cellulose acetate plastic, increase the risk of cancer for smokers, take a long time to decompose and constitute approximately five to nine percent of aquatic trash. Consequently, they will inevitably be covered by the treaty, as seen with the EU Single Use Plastics Directive and other global plastics policies.

However, proposed solutions tailored for traditional plastics could undermine the implementation of the WHO FCTC. For example, mandating tobacco Extended Producer Responsibility proposed to involve the tobacco industry in raising awareness about environmental harms, recycling tobacco product waste, and partnering with governments on related activities, will undermine Articles 5.3 and 13 of the WHO FCTC unless the objectives of the Convention are taken into account.

Additionally, conventional solutions for plastics, such as recycling and so-called safe alternatives, notably so-called biodegradable filters, are not applicable for tobacco products given the hazardous nature of the waste.

Biodegradable alternatives may also inadvertently make cigarettes more attractive for young people by creating an impression of being environmentally friendly. This is contrary to Articles 9 and 10, which call for the removal of attractive features.

Providing incentives to redesign tobacco products would contradict Article 5.3 guidelines, which prevent granting incentives or benefits to the tobacco industry. Moreover, recycling such a toxic product has not been proven to be commercially feasible or safe.

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To protect the health of the environment and their citizens governments must implement robust measures that align with environmental protection (Art 18) and key environmental principles requiring the removal of toxic pollutants from the source.

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A COP10 decision, based on the draft decision proposed by Brazil and other Parties, could help create synergy between the WHO FCTC and the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations – which is next scheduled for Canada in April 2024. The decision could help establish a norm for considering public health provisions when setting environmental policies and catalyze collaboration between health and environmental sectors, fostering a more holistic approach that considers health and environmental implications in plastics pollution negotiations.

Weak provisions may limit accountability for the environmental impact of tobacco products, hindering efforts to hold the industry responsible. For instance, the failure of the EU Single Use Plastic Directive to provide clear solutions unique to the tobacco industry's use of deception to promote a flawed and toxic product feature has led to problems and undermined the WHO FCTC, such as the industry being involved in marketing in France and partnering with the government in Italy.

To protect the health of the environment and their citizens governments must implement robust measures that align with environmental protection (Art 18) and key environmental principles requiring the removal of toxic pollutants from the source. This also aligns with product regulations under Art 9/10 of the WHO FCTC, especially the removal of attractive features. WHO has called for an immediate ban on cigarette filters and disposable vapes in its submission to the Plastics Treaty negotiations. A Belgian Superior Health Council report also concluded that a filter ban is the most effective option and called for EU-wide reforms.

By working in synergy, the WHO FCTC, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Treaty to end plastic pollution will accelerate progress towards the environmental and health goals in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Deborah Sy, Head of Global Public Policy and Strategy, Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, Thailand

Leonce Sessou, Executive Secretary, Alliance pour le Controle du Tabac en Afrique, Lomé-Togo

Lilia Olefir, Director, Smoke Free Partnership, Brussels, Belgium

Laurent Huber, Executive Director, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Washington, D.C. USA

Members of the Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA)

COP10 reflections from a first-timer’s perspective

I’m halfway across the world and 13 hours behind my home time zone in the Philippines. Mentors and colleagues had ensured that I and others, who had come to attend the FCTC COP for the first time, were as prepared as we could be. Yet, as the weeklong deliberations dragged on, I realized there was much more to learn.

We had pored through the official documents in advance of the COP, but I had repeatedly gone back to these reference documents to make sense of what I heard Parties saying. What is an expert group vs a working group? How is consensus defined? Why are Parties behaving like this/that? Had we made progress by staying until 10pm? Thankfully, everyone here patiently fielded my endless questions.

Initial confusions aside, I was appalled by some Party statements echoing tobacco industry arguments. Having come from a region where electronic smoking devices (ESD) are proliferating among young people, I was hoping that Parties would adopt strong regulatory policies at COP10 to prevent these products from driving nicotine addiction in my generation. Instead, I was pained to hear Parties continue to be divided on this issue. Clearly, the tobacco industry is creating a new generation of nicotine addiction with these emerging products, evident by its aggressive marketing to the youth while also peddling misinformation about the effectiveness of ESDs as smoking cessation tools.

On the other hand, I was honored and exhilarated to witness historic wins for tobacco control as other Parties spoke in favor of human rights and the protection of the environment, while affirming the importance of holding the tobacco industry accountable for economic, societal, and environmental harms it has caused.

I was also inspired to see my fellow youths bravely making themselves heard and rightfully demanding that the world’s governments protect younger generations from the tobacco industry and fully engage with young people to create a tobacco-free world.

Throughout the week’s long working days, I remained energized in the midst of civil society actors fighting tirelessly to counter and block multiple tobacco industry-influenced motions. I learned a lot from observing CSO colleagues in action, engaging and supporting Parties to move towards decisions with the most positive impact on public health and tobacco control.

As COP10 draws to a close, we hold tightly to our policy wins and stand united with fellow health advocates, hopeful that Parties will remember their duty to uphold the highest standard of health and wellbeing of their constituents, so as to make decisions that facilitate the achievement of the FCTC’s objectives.

Of course, our fight against the tobacco industry goes beyond the halls of COP10. We have our work cut out for us: to remind governments to implement their obligations to protect public health rather than tobacco industry interests.

My first COP experience had its highs and lows, but I am excited to be here again in two years, as we continue to advocate fervently for the tobacco endgame and a tobacco-free future. See you at COP11!


Val Bugnot, Communications Manager, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

Canada becomes first country to require health warnings directly on individual cigarettes

Health warnings printed on every cigarette stick have been required in Canada, a world first. Supported by research from many countries, this innovative approach reaches everyone who smokes in every community, every day, with every cigarette, and with every puff. The warnings cannot be missed.

Canada requires a set of six rotated text messages to appear on cigarettes, with examples shown in the photo below. The new warnings were first noted in packages sold in stores last week. Manufacturers have until April 30, 2024, and retailers have until July 31, 2024 to fully comply with the measure. There is a later deadline for shorter cigarettes of 70-73 mm in length.

The warnings make cigarettes less attractive. Experimenting youths will see the warning if they borrow a a single cigarette stick from a friend, even when the package warning may not be seen. The warnings will be there during smoke breaks and will prompt discussion among smokers. In low-income countries, where single cigarettes without a pack may often be sold individually, warnings directly on cigarettes are all the more important. Furthermore, warnings on cigarettes provide a unique identifier for cigarettes to be sold in the country, thus assisting law enforcement authorities in contraband prevention.

Canada’s announcement of final regulations on May 31, 2023, received extensive international media attention. Australia has already announced that it will implement this measure. It can be expected that many countries will follow the Canadian example, as the measure is easy, complements pack warnings, reduces smoking, and obliges manufacturers to pay for the printing costs.

Cigarette package purchased in Canada last week and being shown to COP10 delegates. Bilingual warnings are printed on each cigarette.


Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society

covid-19 smoking dangers


Even today, COVID-19 remains a serious health threat that can lead to severe complications and deaths. Tobacco and COVID-19 critically impact the outcome of many health conditions and disproportionately affect people living with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease.

The role of tobacco as a key determinant of COVID-19 severity was initially neglected. However, a myriad of studies have confirmed that tobacco use is strongly associated with increased risks of severe COVID-19 illness, complications, and deaths.

Building on the Declaration on WHO FCTC and Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the World Heart Federation sheds light on the deadly interplays, both direct and indirect, between tobacco use, cardiovascular disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic, while highlighting missed opportunities for a more robust tobacco control response.

WHF urges Parties to learn from the costly lessons of the pandemic, implement life-saving tobacco control measures, and safeguard science and policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry, to better prepare for future health crises.

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Global Alliance for Tobacco Control

c/o HealthBridge

1 Nicholas St, Suite 1004

Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 7B7

Phone: 1 613 241 3927

Email: info@gatc-int.org

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