COP10’s Recognition of Human Rights in Tobacco Control is Good for Consumers

March 19, 2024

The recently concluded Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10 FCTC) marked a significant step in the global efforts to combat tobacco harm. Currently, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year, including an estimated 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. The resolutions and discussions held at COP10 are important for the future of tobacco harm reduction (THR). Moreover, the outcomes of this conference not only reaffirmed the commitment to existing tobacco control measures but also ushered in a new era of consideration for THR strategies.

One of the key resolutions at COP10 was more robust measures to implement existing tobacco control initiatives. There were calls to strengthen the implementation of the WHO FCTC initiatives. One such resolution calls on parties to protect public health policies from the tobacco industry’s commercial and other interests. This resolution is vital. THR advocates often face industry interests that do not align with public health goals. Implementing this resolution helps create a regulatory environment conducive to unbiased decision-making. It further ensures that THR strategies are guided by public health policies rather than commercial interests. Such collective resolve sends a message about working towards a healthier future.

The acknowledgement by COP10 FCTC of the connection between human rights and tobacco control is also a significant development.

Establishing an expert group to examine the liability of the tobacco industry concerning Article 19 of the FCTC on liability was another notable development at the conference. Article 19 of the FCTC on liability provides a legal framework for holding the industry accountable for its actions. Such a group indicates a heightened focus on subjecting the tobacco industry to legal scrutiny. This move recognises the need to assess and address the industry’s role in promoting tobacco-related harm. It involves scrutinising marketing practices, product design, and actions facilitating tobacco-related diseases. The findings and recommendations of the expert group could influence legal and regulatory changes at both national and global levels. It might lead to newer regulations that enhance the legal framework for holding the tobacco industry accountable.

Furthermore, COP10’s recognition of the environmental impact of tobacco aligns with a broader shift towards greater environmental awareness. Acknowledging environmental impacts from cultivation, manufacturing, consumption, and waste disposal of tobacco products reflects an understanding that tobacco control is also an environmental concern. This ecological perspective provides an opportunity for innovation. Harm reduction strategies, such as alternative nicotine delivery systems, can be designed with an emphasis on minimising environmental harm. Manufacturers and policymakers can explore eco-friendly practices and materials. These measures align harm reduction efforts with broader sustainability goals.  

Moreover, the connection between tobacco and the environment calls for global collaboration. International bodies, governments, and stakeholders must share data and develop sustainable solutions. This collaboration extends the need to go beyond traditional tobacco control measures. The call for cooperation opens doors for joint efforts in addressing both health and environmental challenges associated with tobacco use.

The acknowledgement by COP10 FCTC of the connection between human rights and tobacco control is also a significant development. This discussion has been on the table since 2018 at the FCTC. The recent recognition emphasises the importance of aligning policies with human rights principles. Individuals must have the right to make informed decisions about choosing less harmful alternatives to traditional tobacco products. In addition, this resolution emphasises non-discrimination and inclusivity. It encourages a more inclusive approach to tobacco control that considers individuals’ diverse needs and preferences. It implies that THR should be accessible to all without discrimination. This recognition calls for global advocacy for human rights in tobacco control. It encourages international collaboration to ensure that policies and interventions are developed in a way that respects and protects human rights. This collaborative approach is crucial for addressing tobacco-related challenges inclusively.

The resolutions at COP10 FCTC are crucial in the ongoing global fight against tobacco harm. The resolutions show the importance of collaboration and open dialogue among relevant stakeholders. Such measures facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices. This continuous exchange is essential for staying abreast of emerging challenges, innovative solutions, and evolving patterns of tobacco use. Moving forward, a more inclusive approach involving public health experts, regulatory bodies, and THR advocates is important. This collaborative approach is essential to balance traditional and newer tobacco control measures. 

Nicholas Aderinto is a fellow at the Foundation for Consumer Freedom Advancement.