Tobacco industry interference and government underfunding threaten global tobacco treaty
(Ottawa – November 10, 2010) As the 172 countries that have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) prepare to meet for the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the FCTC in Uruguay next week, Canadian health groups are calling on the Canadian government to step in to protect the treaty from tobacco industry interference and to step up Canada’s financial support for the treaty.
“The FCTC is only in its sixth year, but has already had an enormously beneficial impact on health protection around the world,” said Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society. Countries that ratify the treaty agree to put in place basic health policy controls over tobacco products, such as banning tobacco advertising, ensuring indoor workplaces and public places are smoke-free and requiring health warnings on all tobacco products. “In the past half decade, we have seen a rapid escalation in the number of countries that have implemented these tobacco control measures.”
Five years after the treaty came into force, two major vulnerabilities faced by the treaty are becoming apparent,” said Melodie Tilson, Director of Policy with the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association. “Many countries are unable to implement the treaty because of significant interference from the tobacco industry or because they do not have access to the financial and technical resources they need to build national programs—or both.”
“Canada’s situation typifies the challenges the treaty faces, both with respect to industry interference and financial resources,” said Neil Collishaw, Research Director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. “Canada is the sixth wealthiest country among the Parties to the treaty, and traditionally a leader of global tobacco control efforts. Instead of increasing its support for tobacco control after the treaty came into effect, however, Canada has cuts its international contributions by more than half.”
A report on Canada’s implementation of the FCTC, prepared by the member organizations of the Global Tobacco Control Forum and released today, found that Canada’s support for the treaty lags significantly behind its support for other global health challenges. “For every dollar that the government of Canada provides for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis, it contributes less than a penny to support tobacco control in countries in need,” said Collishaw.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that in the coming decades, there will continue to be more deaths in developing countries from tobacco use than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. While tobacco products killed 100 million people in the 20th century, the WHO estimates that they will kill one billion people in the 21st century, most in low- and middle-income countries, unless the effective measures called for by the FCTC are implemented worldwide.
Canada has been the object of tobacco industry tactics to derail the new federal law banning flavours in cigarettes and little cigars,” said Rob Cunningham. “But while Canada has the technical and financial capacity to fend off false claims by tobacco companies, many smaller countries do not. The treaty Secretariat, with an annual budget of less than $5 million, currently has little capacity to help these countries.”
The groups are calling on the Government of Canada to match its mandatory contributions to the treaty with an equivalent additional, extra-budgetary donation. “This additional donation would assist Parties to work together over the coming months to find solutions to these systemic implementation problems,” said Neil Collishaw. “Without such a donation, these problems will not be adequately addressed.”
report, “Canada’s Implementation of the Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control,” was prepared by member
organizations of the Global Tobacco Control Forum. Some
of the organizations endorsing the report include the
Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Public Health
Association, the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle
du tabac, HealthBridge, the Non-Smokers’ Rights
Association, the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco
and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society
Melodie Tilson, Director of Policy, Non-Smokers’ Rights