The Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has concluded with a far-reaching decision that will protect the environment and the health of people throughout the world from the ravages of tobacco.
“We have taken an historic decision on Article 18,” said Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, describing action to strengthen the article of WHO FCTC focused on the protection of the environment and the health of all people.
“The decision urges Parties to take account of the environmental impacts from the cultivation, manufacture, consumption and waste disposal of tobacco products, and to strengthen the implementation of this article, including through national policies related to tobacco and protection of the environment,” Dr Blanco Marquizo said.
The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the WHO FCTC, which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO FCTC has led international tobacco-control efforts for more than 20 years.
Representatives from 142 Parties gathered in Kigali, Rwanda from 5–10 February to tackle a range of issues from progress on implementation of the treaty to the regulation of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Globally, some 200 000 hectares of land are cleared every year for tobacco cultivation, accounting for up to 20% of the annual increase in greenhouse gases.
The decision also addresses the issue of cigarette filters. An estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away annually worldwide, representing 1.69 billion pounds of toxic trash containing plastics.
Under specific circumstances – such as sunlight and moisture – cigarette filters break down into smaller plastic pieces, eventually leaching out some of the 7000 chemicals contained in a single cigarette. Many of those chemicals are environmentally toxic.
The decision on Article 18 is very timely given the ongoing intergovernmental negotiation committees working to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
Another important decision was taken at COP10 to strengthen guidelines on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and the depiction of tobacco in the entertainment media.
In addition, two expert groups were established – one to work on forward-looking tobacco- control measures under Article 2.1 of the WHO FCTC and the other to focus on Article 19, which concerns liability.
Other decisions adopted by COP10 were related to the promotion of human rights through the WHO FCTC as well as strengthening the WHO FCTC Investment Fund.
The Parties also agreed to extend by five years the mandate of the Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control 2019–2025: Advancing sustainable development through the implementation of the WHO FCTC 2019–2025, so that it fully aligns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
COP10 also adopted the Panama Declaration, which draws attention to the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and the interests of public health.
The Declaration also makes clear the need for policy coherence within governments to comply with the requirements of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, which aims to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
COP10 was open to the media, which had the opportunity to observe all public and open sessions, enabling reporters to witness more than 1000 delegates from around the world unite over six days to consider and take action on important issues related to implementation of the Convention.
They saw youth organizations and young activists from around the world gather under the common banner of “Global Youth Voices” to deliver a powerful message, reminding Parties that they have “the power to change the course of our future”.
“Throughout this week, youth worldwide will be watching,” the young activists said. “Future generations will remember you as the ones who protected them or the ones who failed them and put them in danger.”