The Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control closed its eighth session – COP8 – on 7 October after adopting a new action plan to scale up the global tobacco control agenda over the next few years.The meeting in Geneva also released the 2018 Global Progress Report on implementing the framework convention – one of several publications launched.
The Medium-Term Strategic Framework or MTSF, also known as the Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control, aims to strengthen implementation of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), with a roadmap to guide the work of the signatory parties, the Convention Secretariat and other stakeholders with regards to tobacco control from 2019 to 2025.
“The adoption of this strategy marks a key milestone in strengthening the FCTC,” said Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat. “This strategy provides a very clear path forward, with priorities and objectives to reinforce government policies and accelerate global action for more effective implementation of the tobacco control treaty.”
The six-day COP8 gathering brought together over 1,200 participants comprising delegations from 148 Parties to the global tobacco control treaty and included representatives of United Nations agencies, other intergovernmental organisations and civil society.
“COP8 has made substantial progress towards comprehensive tobacco control by the Parties to the treaty and will result in stronger protections against tobacco-related diseases and premature deaths,” said Preeti Sudan, COP8 President and Secretary of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
In another significant action to ensure FCTC progress, delegates at COP8 adopted a series of measures to maximize transparency to protect FCTC related sessions and proceedings from the intrusion of tobacco industry representatives and interests.
New strategies were adopted for preventing further interference by tobacco industry in public health policies, in line with Article 5.3 of the FCTC, which requires parties to the treaty to protect national public health policies “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.”
Conference participants noted progress in reducing tobacco use through new legislation and regulations for limiting access and promotion of tobacco products.
Since it came into force in 2005, the Convention has resulted in national strategies and legislation that have introduced health warning on packages of tobacco and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
At the COP8 gathering, parties also addressed the need for tobacco control efforts to integrate strategies to combat the destructive impacts of tobacco on the environment and sustainable development.
“The link between tobacco control and environmental protection and their integral link with the Sustainable Development Goals has been emphasized, clearly indicating the critical need for parties to apply tobacco control efforts in development strategies,” said Sudan.
The COP is the only existing global intergovernmental meeting exclusively devoted to tobacco control. It is a platform for policy formulation and the adoption of implementation mechanisms by the Parties to the Convention.
In her parting words to the delegations at COP8, Costa e Silva urged parties to the FCTC to press forward with their fight against the global tobacco epidemic.
“More than ever, we need to stay the course and strengthen our commitment to ensure that FCTC efforts to protect and promote public health and sustainable development are not hijacked by the tobacco industry,” Costa e Silva said. “We must yield no ground to the tobacco industry.”
The recent entry into force on 25 September of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade on Tobacco Products marked another key milestone in global tobacco control efforts. To date, the Protocol has 48 Parties. The first session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP1) to the Protocol is being held from 8-10 October, following the close of COP8.
2018 Global Progress Report
The Eight Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the WHO FCTC started with presentation of the results of the 2018 Global Progress Report – a publication based on official reports submitted by parties to the Convention Secretariat.
Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva said, “We are happy to report, based on the information received from the Parties in the 2018 reporting cycle, that progress is evident in implementation of most articles to the Convention, especially the time bound measures concerning smoke-free environments, packaging and labelling and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship ban.”
While the status of implementation has consistently improved since the Convention’s entry into force in 2005, progress towards implementation of the various articles remains uneven, with rates ranging from 13% to 88%.
As was the case in previous reporting cycles, Article 8 (Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke), Article 11 (Packaging and labelling of tobacco products), Article 12 (Education, communication, training and public awareness) and Article 16 (Sales to and by minors) have been implemented most successfully.
Meanwhile, Article 18 (Protection of the environment and the health of persons), Article 19 (Liability) and Article 17 (Provision of support of economically viable alternative activities) seem to be the least successfully implemented.
Important advances were observed in implementation of measures relating to the reduction of demand for tobacco.
More than 90% of the Parties indicated having put in place tax and/or price policies, and the same percentage declared having banned smoking in all public places. A considerable number of Parties also shared their experience in extending or planning to extend smoking bans to outdoor environments, as well as on the inclusion of novel products in their existing smoke-free legislation.
Health warnings on tobacco packs are now required in almost 90% of Parties, with a growing number of Parties implementing or planning to implement plain or standardized packaging. Tobacco-dependence diagnosis and treatment services are included in national tobacco control programmes in more than two thirds of the Parties, which is significant progress compared to one half in 2016.
While most of the parties have reported the existence of a comprehensive ban in their countries on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, cross-border advertising remains less regulated and difficult to enforce. Over two thirds of the Parties have also reported enacting or strengthening legislation aimed at tackling illicit trade on the national level.
In 2018, an increasing number of Parties reported having put in place or developed comprehensive multisectoral national strategies and tobacco control action plans, with nearly two thirds reporting measures taken to prevent tobacco industry interference with tobacco control policies.
Even though 85% of the Parties have prohibited sales of tobacco products to minors and a growing number of the Parties have increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, there is still room for improvement, especially in banning self-service shelves and vending machines.
National tobacco surveillance systems established by more than 70% of the Parties, advances in research, and the observation of patterns of tobacco consumption have contributed to the improved monitoring of progress towards both the implementation of the WHO FCTC, which is a target in the Sustainable Development Goals, and global targets for noncommunicable diseases.
Costa e Silva said, “Reporting on the implementation of the WHO FCTC contributes to the dissemination of experiences and best practices, but it is also an opportunity for Parties to the WHO FCTC to share information on their challenges, needs and barriers.”
Tobacco industry interference, combined with the emergence of new and novel tobacco products, continues to be considered the most serious barrier to the implementation of the Convention. Despite the significant progress, the lack of human and financial resources remains the challenge cited most often by the Parties. Additionally, technical assistance is still very much needed in the fields of taxation, policy development, research and national cessation programmes.
Concluding COP8 article on the WHO site
2018 GLOBAL PROGRESS REPORT on Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Press release: New report on global progress in implementation of tobacco control treaty
Opening COP8 report on the WHO site
All publications launched during COP8
Working group report on Measures to strengthen the implementation of the Convention through coordination and cooperation