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Monday, November 22, 2010


Barring a last-minute problem in plenary today, delegates can go home with the satisfaction of having collectively stood up to the biggest tobacco industry assault on the FCTC process that we have seen to date.

Over the last year, the tobacco industry has orchestrated a global public relations campaign to head off adoption of (partial) guidelines on Articles 9 & 10. This involved outlandish claims that “WHO bureaucrats” were trying to ban burley tobacco, or that restrictions on additives used to make cigarettes attractive to children would put burley farmers out of business.

In the end, despite the press conferences, “studies” and extensive lobbying by the industry and its front groups, despite the demonstrations outside the conference venue, Parties were not fooled. After some drama last night in Committee A, they found compromise language to satisfy China and the guidelines were accepted.
Shortly thereafter came a second victory for tobacco control: Committee A accepted the idea of a working group on Article 6, which deals with price and tax measures. The European Union, which had opposed the idea only 24 hours earlier, not only bowed to the collective will of numerous developing countries but announced it would participate in the group, possibly even as a key facilitator. China and Japan, the only other opponents, dropped their objections without comment.

This is potentially a major gain for the FCTC: the working group should help integrate finance ministries into tobacco control. Tobacco tax increases are the single most effective short-term measure to reduce tobacco consumption, but are often blocked by lack of awareness in finance ministries of the added revenue (and public health gains) to be made. Of course, setting up the working group is only the first step – now delegates will have to work hard to ensure the right people get sent to the meetings, and we can assume the tobacco industry will lobby very hard, at COP-5 or COP-6, against the adoption of strong and effective Article 6 guidelines.

As Committee A drew to a close, there were further gains, with the important decision to initiate work on Article 19 to support Parties in effective liability strategies, as well as steps forward in the FCTC reporting system.

With these victories, as well as the approval of Articles 12 and 14 guidelines and measures to combat tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship on Thursday, Committee A delegates can go home tired but satisfied.

Committee B delegates have a little more work to do. While progress was made yesterday, with the adoption of important decisions on financial resources, mechanisms of assistance and international co-operation, and South- South co-operation, a final decision on the budget must be made this morning. Substantial lack of clarity in last night's session will make this a difficult task.

But there were also encouraging signs, with extra budgetary contributions announced and a creative solution found to make up the US$600,000 deficit expected in the proposed zero nominal increase budgets. Today, Committee B is urged to adopt a budget that matches Committee A's commitment and supports the vision of the FCTC.

-Extracted from the FCA COP 4 bulletin – issue 110 (front page)