On Strengthening WHO FCTC Implementation During COVID-19

The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) joins the public health
community in calling for world health leaders to strengthen tobacco control in light of tobacco
industry tactics during the pandemic.

In a letter dated May 15, 2020, 100 public health community members, covering over 300 constituent
organizations from across the world, stressed the need to strengthen WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) implementation during the pandemic.

GGTC joined the group in asking the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) to integrate WHO FCTC in COVID-19 responses, pandemic preparedness plans, and efforts to counter misinformation.

The public health community called out the tobacco industry for playing a role in health messages that sow confusion — diverting attention to the fact that tobacco use is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which leads to developing severe and even fatal COVID-19. The tobacco industry’s partnership strategy involving vaccine development and donations publicity, was also criticized in light of its lobbying for economic benefits and creating a smokescreen on the USD-460 billion healthcare costs of tobacco use.

GGTC echoed the WHO FCTC Secretariat’s message on the opportune moment to help people quit tobacco use and the anticipated tobacco industry interference in government efforts to strengthen tobacco control; WHA delegates were reminded of the “fundamental conflict of interest between public health and the tobacco industry;” a principle that has been translated to policies not only for governments but also for the World Health Organization, and other agencies of the United Nations.

The open letter was coordinated by GGTC, a partner in STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products), and published just as the 73rd WHA prepares to table a WHA draft resolution on COVID-19 at its first ever virtual session on Monday, May 18th. The resolution is sponsored by the EU, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and others.

Aside from tackling vaccine development international health regulations and pandemic preparedness protocols, the draft WHA resolution calls for collaboration with all stakeholders to address the pandemic.

The WHO FCTC, the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO states that: “In setting and
implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

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