Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

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The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sets guidelines for interaction between governments and the tobacco industry, to limit industry interference with tobacco control and health policies.

According to a report by ASH Australia:[1]

So far 170 countries[2] have ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) – an international treaty that includes a specific obligation to protect public health policies from interference by the tobacco industry and related interests.[3]
Article 5.3. states: “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.”
Parties to the FCTC agree there is a “fundamental and irreconcilable conflict” between tobacco industry interests and public health policy interests.
Article 5.3 Guidelines, developed to support Parties in implementing the FCTC, elaborate on effective measures for addressing tobacco industry influence and interference in public health. These are minimum requirements and treaty parties are urged to enact measures beyond the guidelines, which apply to:
  • Officials, representatives, and employees of any government or semi/quasi-public institution or body responsible for, or that contributes or could contribute, to developing or implementing tobacco control policies, and to any persons acting on their behalf. (Guidelines, para. 9-10)
  • The tobacco industry (as defined by FCTC Art. 1), whether or not organisations are privately- or government-owned, and entities, associations, and individuals that represent it or work to further its interests. Government should do the following to implement Article 5.3:
  • Raise awareness that tobacco products are addictive, deadly and that tobacco smoke causes disease, disability and death. (Rec. 1.1)
  • Disseminate knowledge of the industry’s tactics of using individuals, front groups, and affiliated organisations to further the tobacco industry’s interests. (Rec. 1.2)
  • Limit interactions with the tobacco industry to only those necessary to effectively regulate the industry and its products. When tobacco industry interactions are necessary, they should be conducted transparently in public through hearings, notices of interactions, and disclosure of records. (Rec. 2.1, 2.2)
  • Reject any partnerships, non-binding or non-enforceable agreements and any voluntary arrangement put forth by the tobacco industry or its allies or where such agreements are offered as a substitute for legally enforceable measures. (Rec. 3.1, 3.3)
  • Reject any offer for assistance or proposed tobacco control legislation or policy drafted by or in collaboration with the tobacco industry. (Rec. 3.4)
  • Prohibit tobacco industry involvement in any youth, public education, or other tobacco control initiative; prohibit involvement, in any manner, in initiatives directly or indirectly related to tobacco control. (Rec. 3.2)
  • Avoid conflicts of interests for government officials and employees.
  • Ban political contributions by the tobacco industry, or alternatively, require their full disclosure. (Rec. 4.11)
  • Prohibit tobacco industry payments, contributions, gifts, and services to government institutions, officials, or employees (except payments mandated by law).
  • Bar tobacco industry representatives, or any entity acting to further tobacco industry interests, from membership of any body, committee or advisory group that sets or implements public health policy. (Rec. 4.8)
  • Require the tobacco industry to publicly report activities and practices, and impose mandatory penalties for providing false or misleading information: e.g. registration of lobbyists and payments to them for production, manufacture, market share, revenues, lobbying, philanthropy, political contributions, other activities not yet banned; and other specified activities and practices (e.g. payments to scientists/ researchers, journalists; for research, conferences, etc.). (Rec. 5.2-5.5)
  • Denormalise and regulate purported “socially responsible” activities by the tobacco industry - e.g. no endorsement, support or formation of partnerships with the industry, and correction of any perceptions of partnerships created by it. (Guidelines, para. 20; Rec. 6.1-6.4)
  • Do not provide incentives, privileges, benefits or exemptions for the tobacco industry. (Rec. 7.1- 7.3)
  • Monitor activities of the tobacco industry - by nongovernment organisations and other members of civil society not affiliated with the industry. (para. 32, 33)

"The Corporate Social Responsibility of the Tobacco Industry is an Inherent Contradiction"

Since tobacco companies are not permitted to advertise or promote their products by law, engaging in ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities offers an alternative route to reach various audiences. However, such activities may be a violation to the Framework. The Guidelines to article 5.3 of the Convention are quite specific on this point, and state the following:

26. The tobacco industry conducts activities described as socially responsible to distance its image from the lethal nature of the product it produces and sells or to interfere with the setting and implementation of public health policies. Activities that are described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry, aiming at the promotion of tobacco consumption, is a marketing as well as a public relations strategy that falls within the Convention’s definition of advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
27. The corporate social responsibility of the tobacco industry is, according to WHO, an inherent contradiction, as industry’s core functions are in conflict with the goals of public health policies with respect to tobacco control.

And under Recommendations it says:

6.1 Parties should ensure that all branches of government and the public are informed and made aware of the true purpose and scope of activities described as socially responsible performed by the tobacco industry.
6.2 Parties should not endorse, support, form partnerships with or participate in activities of the tobacco industry described as socially responsible.
6.3 Parties should not allow public disclosure by the tobacco industry or any other person acting on its behalf of activities described as socially responsible or of the expenditures made for these activities, except when legally required to report on such expenditures, such as in an annual report.[4]

Framework Convention Uruguay

According to the Tobacco Reporter,[5] in January 2011 after the meeting in Punta de Este, Uruguay, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control agreed to recommend restricting or banning flavour additives. Delegates from the 172 signatory countries to the FCTC also agreed the following recommendations:

  • support Uruguay in its legal defence against Philip Morris International, which says the country has violated a trade agreement by requiring graphic warning labels
  • establish a working group to develop guidelines on taxing tobacco in ways that might reduce consumption and provide continued funding for the tobacco-control programme
  • recommend that smoking-cessation programs be paid for by national health systems and that governments train experts to help more smokers quit

British American Tobacco's Response

On its website BAT's director of corporate affairs Michael Prideaux called the guidelines incomplete. "In the rush to force these guidelines through, regardless of whether or not they were finished, governments have been left with a confusing and unhelpful document which offers them no direction on what to do next". Prideaux also asserted that the guidelines were "lacking in any scientific evidence to support that they will have the intended impact on public health."[6]

External Resources


  1. Anne Jones and Stafford Sanders, "Countering Tobacco Tactics", Action on Smoking and Health Australia, 2010, accessed 7 June 2011
  2. See WHO reporting database for details
  3. World Health Organisation, "Framework Convention on Tobacco Control", 2003, accessed 7 June 2011]
  4. World Health Organisation, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, point 3, 2008, accessed April 2012
  5. Tobacco Reporter, Framework Convention Uruguay meeting short on useful ingredients, January 2011
  6. British American Tobacco, "Vague guidelines on tobacco ingredients offer no guidance for governments", British American Tobacco website, 22 November 2010, accessed 10 February 2012