(CNS): Despite loads of credible and scientifically robust evidence that tobacco kills and is a common risk factor for major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), public-health programmes have achieved limited success in controlling tobacco epidemic. With over 6 million tobacco-related deaths every year, the world is far from eliminating tobacco deaths. Every tobacco-related death is a tragedy, because it is preventable, had rightly said US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the opening of the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH 2015).
"One of the major obstacles in implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is tobacco-industry interference and how it intimidates and harasses governments," said Matthew Allen, who is the lead author of Article 5.3 Toolkit: Guidance for Governments on Preventing Tobacco Industry Interference," of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).
Conflict of interest
One major game-changer in tobacco control has been the adoption of WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines in November 2008 by countries that have ratified the global tobacco treaty. FCTC Article 5.3 hugely succeeded in putting the spotlight on fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest between tobacco industry and public-health policy, thereby denying them seat on the table in tobacco control.
But there is more in WHO FCTC that can further turn the tide of the global tobacco epidemic!
Holding tobacco companies liable
WHO FCTC Article 19 envisions a world where governments hold the power to protect people from harmful products like tobacco, can recover the costs of treating tobacco-related disease from the tobacco industry, and can use their legal systems to ensure their right to do so.
"FCTC Article 19 is one of the least well-implemented articles of the treaty. As a result it provides immense untapped potential to be able to shift the cost-benefit ratio for the way the tobacco industry operates and thereby hold it to account and make it pay the high costs of harms it causes to people around the world," said Cloe Franko, Chair of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) and Senior International Organizer of Challenge Big Tobacco campaign at Corporate Accountability International.