EU, UK and India victories show that the tobacco industry is not a respectable player
The European Union (EU) Court of Justice, the United Kingdom (UK) High Court and the Indian Supreme Court have recently decided landmark cases against four of the world’s largest tobacco companies. The cases centered on tobacco control regulations, such as labelling and packaging of tobacco products—including health warnings, the prohibition of flavored cigarettes and special rules for electronic cigarettes. The three Courts confirmed that the tobacco regulations in question were lawful, especially in light of current, robust evidence regarding the harms of tobacco use and the necessity for its regulation. Pointedly, the EU Court of Justice and the UK High Court specifically used the obligations established by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in the rulings, underscoring its legal significance in protecting public health.
These decisions are most timely considering that the EU anti-smuggling and anti-counterfeiting deal with Philip Morris International (PMI) will expire in July 2016. These crucial decisions accentuate the fact that this tobacco agreement is deeply flawed and will not help address the current global tobacco epidemic. As such, the European Commission (EC) should not renew this deal; rather Member States should ratify the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products—an internationally legitimate method of addressing smuggling and counterfeiting of tobacco products.
Plain packaging: a key part to successful implementation of the UN tobacco control treaty
On World No Tobacco Day 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls on Governments around the world to implement one simple measure with proven effectiveness in tobacco control: the plain packaging of tobacco products. Recent moves by countries to introduce it represent a welcome step that is already proving it can reduce demand for these deadly products and, in turn, save lives, according to the WHO and the Secretariat of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
The third session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC approved, in 2008, the Guidelines for implementation of Article 11, which recommend that Parties should consider adopting measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style, known as plain packaging. The same session of COP approved the Guidelines for implementation of Article 13, which affirm that the effect of advertising or promotion on packaging can be eliminated by requiring plain packaging.
Establishment of tobacco industry monitoring centres
The Conference of the Parties, at its sixth session, adopted a decision to further promote the implementation of Article 5.3 and its Guidelines among the Parties, especially in relation to the industry efforts to undermine tobacco control efforts internationally. (Read the decision FCTC/COP6(14) here)
Both Article 5.3 guidelines and the decision FCTC/COP6(14) recognize the need to monitor implementation of Article 5.3, including the monitoring of the tobacco industry interference and the measures to counteract them.
This need led to the initiation of a project on tobacco industry monitoring centres within the BRICS framework (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and beyond with the primary aim of monitoring the strategies of the tobacco industry. The first such monitoring centre was recently launched in Brazil.