COP10FCTC LIVE Day Six #COP10news #THRworks

An update from us at COPWATCH, on the final day of COP10. 

Today’s Journal 
The Journal for today is here:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-6-en.pdf

At nine pages, it is unusually long. Here are our observations:

  • Articles 9 & 10 (agenda item 6.1) has been postponed to COP11. This is no surprise – we have been reporting all week on how slow the progress on that agenda item has been.
  • There is a lot still to get through in the first session today, and only 3 hours to do it 
  • An item of particular interest to us, Novel and emerging tobacco products (agenda item 6.3) is not resolved and is carried over to today’s business
  • Late evening meetings have been needed to force decisions, including on who the next Head of the Secretariat will be (agenda item 8.8) `

Please let us know if you think we have missed anything interesting.  

There are still no decisions for this week posted on the Decisions page. So, we will keep watching for when those appear. 

Today’s GATC bulletin
From today’s GATC bulletin we learn that:

  • COP is expected to take up two sessions today, finishing in the evening. We had reported yesterday that there were still a lot of agenda items to get through.
  • Philippines is the latest country to be dignified with a ‘dirty ashtray’ award, for ‘its brazen use of tobacco industry tactics of obstinate dispute and delay throughout the COP’. The Philippines is included in our Interesting country statements article, their statement at the livestreamed debate included:

‘we emphasize the importance of a tailored multi-sectoral approach to FCTC implementation, acknowledging Article 1D of FCTC, varying national context and priorities, and domestic legislation.’ The link to the Philippines statement is here.

GATC indignation 
The GATC bulletin displays a palpable sense of indignation. Frustrated that the decision on articles 9 & 10 was deferred to COP11, the editorial complained of “just the amount of diversion and distraction that seemed intentionally disruptive at times.” 

The author was particularly irritated that the term “harm reduction” was used. The adoring FCTC fan club has deluded itself that harm reduction is a tobacco industry fabrication rather than a real life concept with its own Wikipedia page and is an obligation (much ignored) of the FCTC treaty in article 1d of the preamble. 

The editorial also claimed that parties were “confused” about the difference between a working group and an expert group. To clarify for our readers, the former is a group open to all Parties to join, whereas the latter is a group of so-called ‘experts’ cherry-picked by the Convention Secretariat to force through its perverse ideology. See Clive Bates’ Commentary on the annotated agenda (page 5) for more on that.

GATC’s assessment of the week

The bulletin also carries an account of the experience of a first-time COP attendee from the Philippines. Having been suitably brainwashed, she moaned about how delegates had not clamped down hard enough on “electronic smoking devices”. 

“Clearly, the tobacco industry is creating a new generation of nicotine addiction with these emerging products”, she claimed, blissfully ignorant of the fact that tobacco companies provide a tiny proportion of the vaping market and that the products have been saving millions of lives worldwide. 

Remember, you are paying for this delusion through your taxes. 

Will there be any live streaming from COP10 today? 
This tile has appeared on the COP10 website, so it looks as though a press conference will be streamed:

We had thought that the final session might be streamed, and perhaps it will. However, it is unlikely to be as interesting as the debate we saw on days one and two this week, which featured the statements from some of the Parties.  

The announcement of where COP11 will be held will come later. That honour probably won’t be going to a Dirty Ashtray award winner. 

COP10FCTC LIVE Day 5 #COP10news #THRworks

COP Live Day 5 update #1

COP10 business

The COP Journals are informative for what business COP is expected to get through that day and for a report on the previous day. Today’s Journal is here:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-5-en.pdf

From the Journal we learn that ‘Implementation of Articles 9 & 10’ (agenda item 6.1) is still unresolved; Committee A will be dealing with it yet again today. We reported on this several times this week. If you are in Committee A and you are reading this – do look at page 5 of Clive Bates’ Commentary on the annotated agenda for a succinct outline of the issues.   

Committee A is also discussing ‘Novel and emerging tobacco products’ (agenda item 6.3) today. Again, if anyone from Committee A is here, do read pages 9-11 of Clive Bates’ Commentary on the annotated agenda for his expert view on that. 

Both Committees have had evening sessions added, in order to get through their business. It is good to see that the agenda items are being properly discussed, and the WHO and Secretariat’s proposals are not just being waved through. 

According to the Programme of work in today’s Journal, the plan is to clear agenda items up to and including item 8. That would leave what are basically announcements for the plenary / closing session tomorrow. According to the Preliminary Journal, tomorrow’s plenary session will be held either in the morning or in the afternoon:


We just hope that Red Bull is on hand – there is still a lot of business to get through.

The thorny issue of harm reduction at COP10 

It is evident that the prohibitionists at COP are getting a hard time over the issue of tobacco harm reduction (THR). Many of the statements made by Parties in the livestreamed debate referenced it, suggesting trouble ahead for those who want harsh restrictions applied to safer nicotine products. The NGO’s are on the back foot. The European Respiratory Society (ERS) felt compelled to put out a statement on THR this week, asserting that ‘it cannot recommend “harm reduction” as a population-based strategy to reduce smoking and aid quitting’. (Sorry, ERS, the ship has already sailed: there are millions of us globally who have left smoking behind, thanks to THR.) 

GATC published an article titled ‘Harm reduction is at the heart of the treaty’ in their latest bulletin. Those of us who practise THR would agree that harm reduction is central to the treaty – after all, it is covered in article 1 d of the FCTC:


Image credit: @vapingit

However, that is all we can agree with in GATC’s article, in which they appear to misunderstand what harm reduction is about, let alone THR.   

We hope that COP will heed St Kitts and Nevis, who in the livestreamed debate said that:

‘the tobacco control community should not reject the idea of harm reduction per se but we should learn from the best practices of proven public health oriented measures while preventing the tobacco industry from hijacking that important term’

 

Go Guyana! 
Guyana is in GATC’s bad books today, for ‘repeated grandstanding, time-wasting interventions that ignored legal advice on the content of the FCTC and rules of procedure of the COP’

Yesterday we had included Guyana in our Interesting country statements article, noting that they had called for a ‘serious and evidence-based discourse on harm reduction’. A clue to GATC’s displeasure? 

Country statements – videos
sCOPe has compiled a YouTube  playlist with the videos of the statements made by countries in Asia Pacific. Watch (and share!) those from here:
CoP 10 Country Statements – Asia Pacific

Links

Some of the interesting articles we have seen recently:
WHO FCTC asked to disclose full information on smoke-free products

Bloomberg-funded groups accused of intervening in LMICs’ smoking-cessation strategies

COP 10, Panama și reducerea riscurilor asociate fumatului – între oportunitate și ignoranță 

Surge una corriente de rechazo a la oposición de la OMS a los productos de tabaco sin humo: “Sin soporte científico”

Tobaccoharmreduction.net has these reports from earlier in the week:
Navigating Tensions: Pragmatism vs. Ideology at COP10’s Midpoint
SHIFTING POLICY GOALS: CHALLENGES IN TOBACCO CONTROL AT COP10 SESSIONS

Unofficial COP events

It’s the last day of Good COP. The event so far has been excellent. Check out the agenda here:
https://www.protectingtaxpayers.org/cop10-program/

Catch up on any sessions you have missed on TPA’s YouTube and the RegWatch channel.

That’s all from us, for now

COP10FCTC LIVE Day 3/4 #COP10news #THRworks

COP Live Days 3 & 4 update #2

COP10  business
So, today’s Journal eventually got published, shortly before the sessions started for the day.  
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-4-en.pdf

The Journal includes an overview of what business the COP will address for the day, and a report on the previous day.  From the report section, we see that Committee A’s deliberations over agenda item 6.1, concerning Articles 9 & 10, are still not resolved: 

Also, that two agenda items have now been transferred from Committee A to Committee B – an indication that the discussions over item 6.1 are taking much longer than anticipated. 

We have also noticed that the Decisions section on the COP10 website has no documents from this week- is this because no decisions have been made, or because decisions haven’t yet  been published? 

Interesting country statements
We have recently published this article with a selection of individual country statements:
https://copwatch.info/interesting-country-statements-made-at-cop10/

Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, New Zealand, Philippines, St Kitts and Nevis and the United Kingdom are all featured in there, and we have linked to a separate image file for each statement.  

NGOs behaving badly
We are so bored of writing about them but they will keep on doing awful stuff.  

GATC tweeted its Golden Orchid and Dirty Ashtray awards just before the sessions started – clearly intended to intimidate the Parties as they got down to COP business:

We assume that Singapore has been obediently pushing for the Expert group – see our earlier update for more on that. However, we have no idea what the Dominican Republic’s perceived sins are.  

NB our DM’s are open 😉

Outrage over the merch we reported on at our last update is growing, with Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos furiously quote tweeting the Spanish minister:  

https://twitter.com/FarsalinosK/status/1755453717929771076

Media coverage on COP10
Media interest in COP is picking up a bit. 
This article from ULYS media in Kazakhstan describes an incident during one of the live streamed sessions:

“Jamilya Sadykova, a well-known anti-tobacco activist in Kazakhstan, appeared on the monitor and took a place in the delegation hall with representatives of our country. In this peculiar queue to the podium of the conference, she, violating etiquette, tried to attract attention to herself and tried to communicate with the head of the Kazakh delegation from the Ministry of Health.

– This is not the first time. There have already been similar incidents at other COPs when Jamilya took it upon herself to make statements on behalf of the Republic of Kazakhstan, explain members of the delegation.

They are trying to understand what goals Sadykova is pursuing and assume that these are her personal interests associated with private organizations and the American billionaire Michael Bloomberg.”

Delegates behaving badly at COP, who knew?! 
Do read the full article, it also reports on demonstrations by farmers outside the Convention Centre. 

Vaping360 has published this excellent analysis of COP10, highly recommended reading:  
https://vaping360.com/vape-news/128865/cop-10-where-tobacco-control-plays-for-keeps-with-your-life/

Panama authorities T-shirt crackdown 
There was a commotion on Tuesday as Panamanian authorities flexed their muscles. Panama Radio reported that “the Public Health team of the Metropolitan Health Region carried out an operation in four hotels in the town after a complaint about the distribution of pamphlets and t-shirts focused on the consumption of tobacco and its derivatives.” This was apparently unacceptable “because it affects the public health of the population.”

Copwatch has discovered the nature of these lethal materials. They are t-shirts worn by vaping consumer advocates and flyers produced by consumer associations to be handed out to delegates at COP explaining salient points of harm reduction and politely asking them to consider consumer concerns. The Panamanian public are no doubt reassured that the full force of the state has been employed to stamp out such dangerous threats to the safety of the country’s citizens.



Copwatch understands that the Good COP event at the Central Panama Hotel in Casco Viejo was visited by representatives of the Bloomberg-funded Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids yesterday. They were greeted by Taxpayers Protection Alliance staff and invited to register for the event. Sadly, they left soon after but we hear their names are recorded at the TPA reception desk and their lanyards are available to pick up at their convenience.


CTFK pays #GoodCOP a visit

For more on the public health operation see:  
COP 10 in Panama: Police operations against harm reduction advocates/COP 10 au Panama : Opérations de police contre des défenseurs de la réduction des risques (Vapolitique)

Pro-vaping organizations challenge COP10/Organizaciones provapeo desafían a la COP10

https://adiariocr.com/salud/organizaciones-provapeo-desafian-a-la-cop10/

We’ll bring you more from #COP10 tomorrow!

COP Live Days 3 & 4 update #1

What’s going on in Committee A? 

The agenda items included in yesterday’s Journal included several for Committee A, under ‘Item 6 Treaty and technical matters’. This included item 6.1 Implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC. 

We wrote about this agenda item in our update yesterday, asking:  Will Parties relinquish control to the Expert group (Articles 9 & 10)? From the GATC bulletin Day 4 we learn that there has been a struggle in Committee A. GATC is very annoyed 😂 

“We appeared to be in some sort of dystopian COP yesterday in Committee A – was anyone else in the same alternate universe we were in? A world where COP Rules of Procedure can be blatantly ignored, the scope of FCTC Articles magically expanded, advice from WHO legal rejected and the entire history of how the COP operates forgotten or thrown out the window?”

The discussions over Articles 9 & 10 did not go according to the Canadian NGO’s plan: 

“We would like to take this opportunity to remind Parties of the necessity of adopting the proposed     draft decision in relation to Articles 9 and 10

The discussion has taken up a day and a half!  

That draft decision includes Parties surrendering control to an Expert group, on a very weak mandate. In reference to this Clive Bates wrote: 

“Parties should not allow themselves to be excluded by experts chosen by WHO’s bureaucrats”
Commentary on the Annotated Agenda (V2.3) Clive Bates,Counterfactual, taken from page 5

Copwatch is delighted to hear that Committee A is discussing this thoroughly. It is a relief to hear that some Parties in Committee A are conscientiously considering decisions which affect millions of lives – and not being railroaded by the Secretariat, the Bureau and unelected NGOs. 

Country statements
Of huge interest to COPWATCH’s consumer advocate audience has been the statements given by the countries, during agenda item 5. These have been live streamed over days one and two. 

All three videos can still be viewed on the COP10 home page, look for these tiles: 

We now have the transcripts for both streamed sessions from COP10 Day 2, and the streamed session from COP10 Day 1. Here are the links to those transcripts: Item 3 & 4 – Item 5 (Part 1), Item 5 (Part 2), Item 5 (Part 3)  

Later we will bring you excerpts from the transcripts, highlighting those statements which mention harm reduction. 

If anyone is producing video clips of the individual country statements please let us know – we would love to include those in upcoming Copwatch updates

There is no link between vaping and cancer

Vejpkollen tweeted this image, noting that it was first tweeted by a Spanish health minister 😭 We assume that it is merch being handed out by an official COP10 NGO. This is horrifying! There is no link between vaping and cancer. The only study which purported to find one had to be retracted. Health NGOs should not be misinforming about cancer risks.


https://twitter.com/vejpkollen/status/1755358202240098635

Official COP10 side events

Organised by the Bloomberg funded NGOs and designed to pressurise the Parties, it is good to see that these official side events are getting a healthy reaction on social media.

https://twitter.com/GrimmGreen/status/1755012685417373874

Unofficial COP events

1 Good COP is on again today. The event so far has been superb.  Check out the agenda here:
https://www.protectingtaxpayers.org/cop10-program/

Catch up on any sessions you have missed on TPA’s YouTube and the RegWatch channel.

2  An excellent article has been published about the Segundo Foro Latinoamericano Nicotina y Reducción de Riesgo event, which took place on Tuesday:
Regulación diferenciada en productos con nicotina enciende debate en Costa Rica y la región  (Differentiated regulation of nicotine products sparks debate in Costa Rica and the region)
https://observador.cr/regulacion-diferenciada-en-productos-con-nicotina-enciende-debate-en-costa-rica-y-la-region/

Interesting country statements made at #COP10

Countries gave statements during agenda item 5 at COP10. These were live streamed over days one and two. At the time of writing the videos were accessible via the COP10 homepage. We posted the full transcripts here: 1, 2, 3.

In this article we post the individual statements which we think are interesting, with a brief explanation of why we have included them. Are there any other statements you think we should include? Let us know.

Armenia – asks for harm reduction to be considered:
“we believe that alternative methods of reducing the negative health
impacts of smoking should be considered on the firm basis of scientific research and
conclusions in order to take informed decisions on how to minimize the harm of
smoking within that particular segment of our society.”

Link to statement, here

Canada – no mention is made of harm reduction, conflicts with the national policy?
Link to statement, here

El Salvador – asks for further studies and information to analyse the impact of novel products
Link to statement, here

Guatemala – raises a point of order over how consensus is reached at COP
Link to statement, here

Guyana – calls for a ‘serious and evidence-based discourse on harm reduction’
Link to statement, here

New Zealand – states that their national approach ‘involves a considered implementation of evidence-based harm reduction measures’
Link to statement, here

Philippines ‘we emphasize the importance of a tailored multi-sectoral approach to FCTC implementation, acknowledging Article 1D of FCTC, varying national context and priorities, and domestic legislation.’
Link to statement, here

St Kitts and Nevis ‘‘the tobacco control community should not reject the idea of harm reduction per se but we should learn from the best practices of proven public health oriented measures while preventing the tobacco industry from hijacking that important term’, calls for a working group to be established
Link to statement, here

United Kingdom – no mention is made of harm reduction, conflicts with the national policy?
Link to statement, here

COP10FCTC LIVE Day 2/3 #COP10news #THRworks

COP Live Days 2 & 3 update #1

At the time of writing the Journal for today had still not been published. It should appear here, eventually:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10/Journals/index.html. (Edit: here it is: https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-3-en.pdf)

Live streaming of the country statements
Yesterday was Day 2 of FCTC COP10 in Panama. Tobacco harm reduction advocates were pleased to see some transparency brought to the proceedings, with the continued live streaming of the country statements at item 5 (videos are on the COP10 website). As with Day 1, there was no indication given of when the live streaming would start, but we were nonetheless pleased when it finally started blaring out of our devices.  

Yesterday we published a transcript of Day 1’s live streamed session, you can find that here. We hope today to publish a transcript of Day 2. Highlights were St Kitts and Nevis, Armenia,  El Salvador, the Philippines. The United Kingdom’s statement was disappointing, and seemed to go against assurances that minister Andrea Leadsom had made to MPs,  just a few weeks ago. We’ll bring you more on those country statements another time. 

GATC updates (why not spend some Bloombucks on a better website?)
The official propaganda mouthpiece of COP, GATC, is finally chucking out some semi informative articles. It’s just a shame that their newly revamped website is impossible to navigate. Despite Parties having the decision making powers, the tone of the GATC updates is of irritation. GATC – an unaccountable and unelected NGO – sounds annoyed that Parties might not do as they wish them to do. Of course, GATC knows best! And, those pesky Parties will keep trying to mess with the agenda! 

DAY 1

Oh, the irony……

We only had a few agenda items to get through today, notably adopting the agenda, and even that proved to be extremely difficult. Day 1 of COP10 started off with Parties proposing to merge agenda items in an attempt to be more efficient. While in reality, the discussion had the opposite effect and consumed valuable time. We all witnessed the frustrating impact of time spent discussing issues with no productive outcomes. Today was very instructive on how the rest of the week should not be conducted.

From ‘DAY 1’ https://gatc-cop10-bulletin.my.canva.site/day2#orchid-and-dirty-ashtray

This smug ASH update is also blatant about the NGO’s mission to influence Parties: 

February 6, 2024 – A typical day at the Conference of the Parties begins very early and ends very late, and today was no different.

At 7:00 AM, ASH begins by meeting with our civil society allies to discuss strategy for the day. Starting at 9:00 AM, we attend meetings with country Parties. The official Committee meetings begin mid-morning and run late into the evening. ASH is here to listen, take notes, engage with Parties and civil society partners, and occasionally make interventions to advocate for our priorities.

Will Parties relinquish control to the Expert group (Articles 9 & 10)?

A ‘day 2’ update in the GATC COP bulletin is written by tobacco controllers Deborah Arnott and Rob Cunningham.. The point of the article is to ‘urge’ Parties to give away some of their powers.  

“One of the critical decisions Parties will make this week is whether to approve the creation of an Expert Group for Articles 9 and 10…”  

Here is what Clive Bates wrote about that proposal:

Commentary on the Annotated Agenda (V2.3) Clive Bates, Counterfactual, taken from page 5

And, this is taken from GSTHR’s Briefing Paper on the COP10 agenda:

Taken from: The FCTC COP10 Agenda and supporting documents: implications for the future of tobacco harm reduction

The propaganda machine chugs on

Having denied Observer status or even entry to the public gallery to thousands of members of the public and grass roots advocates, we see a continued attempt at COP to show that ‘civil society’ supports what the unaccountable NGOs want at COP10. 

The groups involved are listed at the bottom of this letter: 
https://ggtc.world/knowledge/sustainability-and-human-rights/global-youth-voices-statement-october-2023

As with the Participants list, Bloomberg funding is obvious – but we don’t have time to research whether that applies to absolutely all of them. What is clear though is that GATC has played a leading role in assembling them:

“Our organizations have been building their capacity with the help of Global Center for Good      Governance in Tobacco Control resources and support since 2020”
Taken from: https://gatc-cop10-bulletin.my.canva.site/day2#global-youth-voices-what-brought-us-to-cop10

We see that Global Youth Voices will be joining the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) for a side event on Thursday.  

Why do these people have more of a right to attend COP10 than those with lived experience of using nicotine? 

Awards 

It wouldn’t be COP without bribes awards! 

Global Tobacco Index Integrity award
GGTC (not GATC, but forgive yourself if you get them confused) has awarded this to Brunei:

As an advocate points out, this is despite smoking prevalence rates in Brunei having been stuck at 16% since 2000:

A reminder that FCTC’s COP is no longer about reducing smoking. 

Dirty Ashtray / Orchid awards

GATC has been busy dishing out their notorious awards:


https://gatc-cop10-bulletin.my.canva.site/day2


https://gatc-cop10-bulletin.my.canva.site/day3

It is outrageous that the GATC – an unaccountable NGO – can seek to influence proceedings in this way. We hope that other parties will not take note. 

Do read this excellent article from Philstar on the Orchids and Ashtrays: Absurdity at its worst

“It’s simple: if a COP party or member-country sticks to the agenda and closely aligns itself with the WHO FCTC’s proposed policies, they are given an Orchid Award. On the other hand, if a country ventures to speak about tobacco as a positive force economically or attempts to present proven science on less harmful alternatives to smoking, then they are given the odious-sounding Dirty Ashtray Award.”

Unofficial COP10 events 

The Segundo Foro Latinoamericano Nicotina y Reducción de Riesgo took place yesterday, watch that here: 
https://www.youtube.com/live/-K2RVE4yZMs?si=kdrNk98UIreRvYHS

Skip Murray’s Twitter thread for the Good COP fun later today:
https://twitter.com/imaracingmom/status/1755160790754070996

Day 2 of Good Cop from the TPA:
https://www.youtube.com/@ProtectingTaxpayers

Day 2 of Good Cop from Regulator Watch:
https://regulatorwatch.com/brent_stafford/day-2-good-cop-bad-cop-day-2-regwatch-live/

COP10FCTC LIVE Day One #COP10news #THRworks

COP Live Day 1 update #2

We have now generated a transcript from the livestream video of the opening session – LINK to ‘COP10 opening session transcription’. Please note that it is unedited and might contain errors. The video itself is still accessible on the COP10 homepage – look for ‘Live streaming’. 

Statements made by some of the Parties yesterday – EU, China, New Zealand, the Philippines, the UK (disappointing!) – are especially interesting to read. Those statements appear towards the end, so scroll down.

COP business resumes today with this general debate, starting at 10 a.m. : 


(taken from the annotated agenda)  

Also see Journal 2 for today’s COP10 business: 
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-2-en.pdf

Keep a watch on the ‘Live streaming’ section on the COP10 homepage, in case there is more streaming today.  

And…

Also now underway in Panama: Segundo Foro Latinoamericano Nicotina y Reducción de Riesgo (Second Latin American Nicotine and Risk Reduction Forum)

Also, TPA’s summary of the first day of their Good COP event: is now out:
https://www.protectingtaxpayers.org/e-cigarettes/opening-day-of-good-cop-live-in-panama/

And, Tobaccoharmreduction net will be putting out daily updates during COP week: 
https://www.tobaccoharmreduction.net/updates

DAY 1 UPDATE #1

Welcome to COP Live, where Copwatch will be reporting on FCTC COP10 – AKA The Bloomberg Convention on Tobacco Control

We’ll begin with a reminder that the decision makers at COP are the national governments – not the FCTC Secretariat, not the Bureau, not the NGOs, not the journalists.  

However, you could be forgiven for forgetting that – so far COP10 is a Bloomberg fest.  

Here’s some of what we observed of COP10 on Day 1, from our position firmly outside the tent.  

The five hour delay

The opening session in Panama was to be livestreamed, from 10.00am ET.  However, without any official explanation, the livestream didn’t start until 5 ½ hours later.

Why so late?  We can only guess that the exclusion from COP of democratically elected congressmen from Brazil, and the involvement of the Brazilian ambassador, had something to do with it.  We imagine that Panama would not welcome a diplomatic incident with Brazil.  

For more on that see this article from https://olajornal.com.br/:

https://olajornal.com.br/deputados-representantes-do-governo-do-rs-aguardam-credenciamento-na-cop10

“The expectation is to return the accreditation by the end of the day. A meeting on the evening of this Monday, 5th, between state deputies Marcus Vinícius de Almeida (PP), Edivilson Brum (MDB), Zé Nunes (PT) and Silvana Covatti (PP) and ambassador Carlos Henrique Moojen de Abreu e Silva seeks to detail the demands and the search for participation in COP10.” 

(Google translate, from here)

Watch this video from El Mono Vapeador, filmed before security guards ejected him from the Convention Centre.  Includes an interview with some of those trying to get admitted to COP.


El Mono Vapeador after being ejected by security guards at #COP10

The delay in the livestreaming even confused people inside, with the director of Expose Tobacco retweeting Copwatch (Expose Tobacco does not like Copwatch!).

The official proceedings

We will bring you more on the opening session in a later update.
The video for the livestream is still up, on the COP10 homepage – look for ‘live stream’ towards the bottom. We are watching it now – the statements from national delegations are likely to be the most interesting part of the proceedings.

The Secretariat put out this press release, when COP finally opened:
https://fctc.who.int/newsroom/news/item/05-02-2024-global-tobacco-control-conference-opens-in-panama

The updated participants list for COP had been published much earlier:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Additional%20documents%20-%20Diverse/fctc-cop10-div-1-en.pdf

As was the Journal for Day 1:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-journal-1-resumed-en.pdf

The Bloomberg Convention on Tobacco Control

Copwatch had already sounded the alarm that a significant proportion of the accredited Observers are Bloomberg funded NGOs.  

It is even worse than we thought.  

There’s a Bloomberg Stasi detail:

Bloomberg is supplying astroturf too:

And, of course, the expected propaganda:

The GATC (formerly FCA) is putting out daily propaganda bulletins. So far we haven’t seen anything which could be classed as ‘news’.   

The Conference of the People

In contrast to #COP10, the TPA’s #GoodCOP event did start on time. You can catch up on the excellent discussions on the TPA’s YouTube channel and the RegWatch channel. Skip Murray’s excellent Twitter thread is worth looking at too. 

Keep an eye on the #GoodCOP page for the agenda for their discussions later today:

https://www.protectingtaxpayers.org/cop10/

That’s all for now.  We’ll finish with our short message to delegates:

Delegates – you are representing your countries. You are the decision makers at COP. We trust you to look behind the propaganda. We trust you to read the official documents, not just what the official NGOs are saying. We trust you to do the right thing for people who smoke and who need access to safer nicotine products to improve their health.

COPWATCH #COP10 articles

Here is a list of Copwatch’s #COP10 articles, listed with the most recent first.

5 – 9 February 2024
Copwatch live
Copwatch live reports during COP10 week

8 February 2024
Interesting country statements made at #COP10
Countries gave statements during agenda item 5 at COP10. These were live streamed over days 1 & 2. In this article we post the individual statements which we think are interesting, with a brief explanation of why we have included them.

4 February 2024
#COP10 is here!
“The official event takes place in the Panama Convention Center. There are also unofficial events taking place, notably the Good COP event. Here we give you information about the official and unofficial events.”

26 January 2024
#COP10 – full steam ahead
“The propaganda assault on safer nicotine products and those who advocate for them is at fever pitch. Bloomberg has poured a lot of money – ‘Bloombucks’ – into attacking tobacco harm reduction and journalists for hire are working overtime to smear anyone who speaks up for it.” 

10 December
#COP10 Catch Up
“Quite a bit happened with COP10 since we last posted. Here we bring you up to speed.
Copwatch had been reporting since April that there was a problem with the contract to put on COP10.”

7 November
Even bigger big trouble in little Panama
“The upshot is that, with less than 2 weeks to go, the WHO has booked a convention centre in which to hold COP10 but has no-one to organise it. Delegates may be arriving in Panama City all dressed up but with nowhere to go.”

3 November
FCTC: Does it work? #COP10
“This supplementary document does a far better job than the ‘main document’(10/4) in describing progress made against the ultimate objective, which is to reduce death and disease from smoking.”

31 October
Another anonymously-written WHO paper is misleading Parties to #COP10
“Two weeks ago, Copwatch drew attention to an anonymously-written paper designed to gaslight Parties at COP10 about disposable vapes. There is a similar attempt at gaslighting going on with a second document in the same series, this time on nicotine pouches.”

27 October
Human rights alert at #COP10
“The FCTC Secretariat is working behind the scenes to impose a narrow view on human rights and tobacco within the UN system and amongst countries (the Parties to the Convention).” 

25 October
A vaper’s call to the delegations to #COP10
“Here we publish a powerful plea from a vaper in the Philippines to the delegates who will be meeting at COP10 in Panama next month.”

23 October
FCTC budget: nice work if you can get it
Here Copwatch brings you what you need to know about the COP10 documents relating to the FCTC budget. This covers three documents:  FCTC/COP/10/17, FCTC/COP/10/18, FCTC/COP/10/19 Rev.1

16 October
The WHO publishes anonymously-written papers designed to gaslight Parties at COP10
Copwatch has detailed many instances of the WHO and FCTC Secretariat playing fast and loose with evidence or cherry-picking research to suit its anti-harm reduction agenda. It is unscientific and shameful but nothing we have not seen before. But two new reports, on disposable vapes and nicotine pouches, have been published on a separate page to the main COP10 menu which seem specifically designed to mislead COP10 delegates based on nothing more than opinion.

10 October
COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/4
“Produced by the Convention Secretariat, the subject for the report is ‘Global progress in implementation of the WHO FCTC’.”

28 September
Alternative reading list for #COP10 delegates 
COPWATCHERS will notice that tobacco harm reduction is absent from the official documents, with no consideration given to the opportunities offered by safer nicotine products.   Here we have compiled a list of articles to round off the COP10 delegates’ education.

24 August
#COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/9
“Having airily skipped over the yawning chasm of missing research that they were supposed to have gathered on heated tobacco in just four pages, the FCTC/COP/10/9 document then spends the rest of the 18 pages discussing what bans and restrictions should be put in place.”

18 August
More trouble in little Panama
“In June, Copwatch mentioned, in passing, that a series of nationwide protests and blockades had taken place in COP10 host country, Panama, recently. Cost-of-living concerns, mistrust of government officials, poverty, inequality and corruption have led to much discontent.”

7 August
#COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/7
“The one where the WHO denies quitting smoking is quitting smoking, and other daydreaming”

3 August
The WHO releases new report on the ‘tobacco epidemic’ and how to maintain it
“Cynical people (unlike those at Copwatch, of course) might assume that there is some cherry-picking going on for inclusion of evidence for the report, while Bloomberg’s anti-nicotine minions are given pay-to-play access to write it”

31 July
The road to FCTC #COP10
“Going from the agenda we can expect a fully packed discussion on substantive items. Readers will remember that COP9 was virtual and that although discussions were tortuous (refresh your memory with our COP live reporting), there was no discussion on ‘substantive items’. This in person COP10 in Panama promises to be a proper bun fight – and we just wonder whether the allotted week will be sufficient.”

29 June
Big trouble in little Panama
“The World Health Organization is often criticised for incompetence in a number of its policy focuses, not solely for its calamitous, head-in-the-sand position on lower-risk alternatives to smoking. But in the practice of handing awards to its buddies, it can only be described as a triumphant global expert”

6 June
Yet another murky WHO meeting
“No-one outside of the WHO FCTC bubble will be allowed to view this latest secret meeting, nor do we expect to see published minutes.”

1 June
Consumer groups challenging the WHO FCTC – Who will be next?
“WHO appointees to the FCTC Bureau and Secretariat have always thrived under the cloak of secrecy they cleverly weaved around preparations for COP conferences. They have been mostly unchallenged when ignoring evidence on the effectiveness of safer nicotine and peddling their anti-harm reduction agenda to member delegations. But it appears consumer groups all around the world are alive to their antics this year.”

9 May
April – victory month for harm reduction
For the first time in UN history the notion of harm reduction appeared in the politically negotiated UN resolution on drug policy. Until then harm reduction had only been mentioned in the context of HIV/AIDS. The resolution adopted at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council mentions a harm reduction approach among other health responses and underlines that support for harm reduction is not qualified as being subject to national legislation.

3 May
Introducing the authors of the COP10 agenda – the FCTC Bureau
“Copwatch decided to investigate by looking at the make-up of the FCTC Bureau, the body which will be writing the agenda. It would be preferable if they published their November and March meeting minutes so we could read the plans first-hand but, as Copwatch reported previously, it seems their typewriter is still at the repairers.”

25 April 
The WHO meetings that never are or were
“Although we know that this GTRF meeting is taking place in India this week, that is all we will ever know. It seems that the WHO has only two rules on the matter. The first rule is that they do not talk about GTRF. The second rule is: they DO NOT talk about GTRF!”

20 April
Who is the new WHO French guy?
“the WHO’s new head of policy on tobacco and nicotine has shown he is incapable of understanding quantitative research, is willing to massage scientific data to hide inconvenient facts, refuses to listen to consumers, and is ideologically opposed to vaping despite its track record of reducing smoking rates in his country.”

11 April
Panamanian party poopers?
“The last Copwatch post reported on Dr. Reina Roa, who has accepted an award from Bloomberg Philanthropies and is now being investigated by Panamanian authorities for “administrative irregularities” over what is a clear conflict of interest in her role as an “independent” adviser to the Ministry of Health.”

3 April
Where’s Bloomby? Check the atlas
“The latest target of Bloomberg’s ongoing programme to influence government policies in low and middle income countries is Panama. Yes, the Panama where COP10 will be held later this year. That Panama.”

23 March
We had a dream….
“Yet again, we will hear whining that there are no safer alternatives to smoking, and that tobacco and nicotine products should be banned. Just not the cigarettes.”

1 March
Where are the FCTC Bureau meeting minutes?
“The second meeting of the FCTC Bureau took place at the end of November 2022, but here we are at the start of March and the minutes of their last meeting have still not been published. Has their typewriter broken?”

1 February
Key milestones for COP10
We provide a graphic of the key milestones leading up to COP10, and opportunities for engagement.

10 February
Is the FCTC’s website now a Bloomboard?
“Yet another day, yet another connection of Bloomberg with the Secretariat of the Framework Convention.”

Even bigger big trouble in little Panama

Chaos reigns in Panama City in the lead up to COP10.

In August, Copwatch reported on disquiet in Panama about the award of $4,881,732.20 to a consortium tasked with organising the COP10 conference. Heavy criticism was directed at the government for spending such a large sum of money on bureaucrats when the country’s health service was struggling to cope.

“My God, with half of that money” complains Medical Director, Fernando Castaneda to La Prensa Panamá, “we can buy incubators for newborns, thousands of medicines, supplies, and equipment to replace all the damaged ones we have.”

Matters have developed further with the revelation last week, again by Panamanian news outlet, La Prensa, that the agreement has now been terminated.

“The Cabinet Council approved annulling the $5 million contract signed between the Ministry of Health (Minsa) and the Cop 10 Consortium to organize a biannual anti-smoking conference of the World Health Organization (WHO).”

Reports suggest that the consortium encountered extra costs and requested a further $2 million from the government. This was, understandably due to the political pressure the award had created, promptly rejected. At which point the consortium, equally promptly, withdrew from the contract. 

The upshot is that, with less than 2 weeks to go, the WHO has booked a convention centre in which to hold COP10 but has no-one to organise it. Delegates may be arriving in Panama City all dressed up but with nowhere to go. 

In other news, many COP delegates may view a possible rescheduling of COP10 with relief. The Panamanian public has been outraged at the recent award of a rumoured $400 billion contract with a Canadian mining company to exploit three square miles of Panamanian rainforest to extract copper. Protesters have been on the streets throughout the country chanting and waving banners with slogans such as “Panama is not for sale”. In Panama City itself, crowds of 30,000 protesters have clashed with the Police and Army using tear gas and what the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice page calls “riot control munition”.

There are fuel, gas, and food shortages and protesters have vowed to continue civil disobedience until the mining contract is cancelled, which does not look likely. Searching Twitter hashtags #Panama and #PanamaProtesta brings up disturbing images of angry chaos in Panama City. 

In June, Copwatch referred to previous protests which lasted for weeks on end. 

“Panama was rocked last year by a series of nationwide protests and blockades. They were prompted by cost-of-living concerns, exacerbated by deep-seated mistrust of government officials accused of feasting on taxpayer funds, and complaints about poverty, inequality and corruption in the country.”

BBC World reports that “Such a level of conflict – as massive as it is prolonged – has not been seen since the time of Manuel Antonio Noriega’s dictatorship” which suggests today’s protesters will be in it for the long run.

With around 1,200 delegates due to arrive in Panama imminently, the WHO must be concerned about how they can guarantee attendee safety, especially as protesters have expressed disappointment that the world’s media is not taking much notice of them. Heaven forbid they find out that high ranking government officials from 190 countries are due to convene at the convention centre in Panama City very soon. 

Copwatch can only imagine these two issues combined must be causing headaches amongst FCTC administrators. Perhaps they can reach out to one of their Pharmaceutical partners for a steady supply of Paracetomol. 

The WHO has had a run of extraordinarily bad luck with COP meetings in recent years. Prior to COP6, there was an Ebola outbreak in Africa and the Russians shot down a passenger plane just before Director General Margaret Chan travelled to Moscow to talk about tobacco with Putin. New Delhi saw the worst smog in living memory which closed 20,000 schools in the week the WHO turned up in the city to talk about the dangers of vaping at COP7. The pandemic wrecked plans for COP9 which had to be delayed by a year and held virtually. Now this for COP10.

Copwatch would like to say we have sympathy for such bad luck but, unlike the WHO, we don’t want to mislead you.

FCTC: Does it work? #COP10

In this article we look at a report posted on the Documentation – Supplementary information page on the FCTC COP10 website.  Authored by the Secretariat, the report is titled: ‘Contribution and impact of implementing the WHO FCTC on achieving the noncommunicable disease global target on the reduction of tobacco use’. This report complements the ‘main document’ titled FCTC/COP/10/4: Global progress in implementation of the FCTC, which we wrote about here

This supplementary document does a far better job than the ‘main document’(10/4) in describing progress made against the ultimate objective, which is to reduce death and disease from smoking.  In contrast, FCTC/COP/10/4 mentions prevalence only twice and smoking is mentioned only once: in the context of the implementation of smoke-free laws.  However, although the report we are discussing today does better at describing the problem, it clearly shows the FCTC is not working.

This supplementary document tells us that global tobacco prevalence is estimated to have fallen from 29% in 2005 to 20% in 2022. What the report doesn’t tell us though, is how much smoking has fallen. Smoking is the key driver of death and disease, not tobacco use per se (just look at Sweden). The major problem here is that the metric is wrong – we need to know what is happening with smoking.

Second, whatever the FCTC is doing, it is not working. Only 30% of the countries which have ratified the FCTC are on track to achieve a decrease in tobacco prevalence by 30% by 2025.

This quote from the supplementary report sums up the situation:

“Trends evident from surveys completed by Parties, with projections to 2025, show that most Parties need to accelerate tobacco control activities in order to achieve the voluntary target of the Global Action Plan 2013–2030 to reduce tobacco use by 30% between 2010 and 2025. While the prevalence of current tobacco use among people 15 or older, averaged across all Parties, is estimated to have declined from 29% in 2005 to 20% in 2022, progress is uneven. Of note, 102 Parties are not on track to achieve the reduction target unless additional policies and stronger policies are urgently put in place and effectively enforced.”

This WHO response will be familiar to Copwatch readers: that we need to do more of the same (things that don’t work) and ban products that could actually help us reduce smoking. We respectfully disagree: Sweden, Norway, Japan, UK and New Zealand are achieving far more rapid progress in reducing smoking because consumers can access life-saving alternatives. Taking away these alternatives not only defies logic and common sense, but will also literally kill people.

Another anonymously-written WHO paper is misleading Parties to #COP10

The one where it is suggested nicotine pouches should be banned because they are popular

Two weeks ago, Copwatch drew attention to an anonymously-written paper designed to gaslight Parties at COP10 about disposable vapes.

There is a similar attempt at gaslighting going on with a second document in the same series, this time on nicotine pouches. It begins by setting out its stall. “As we will illustrate below, pouches are offered in an extraordinary array of flavours”, before misdirecting Parties as to the threat.

It claims that “Studies have shown that flavoured tobacco products disproportionately attract young people.(12) Flavours promote tobacco use among youthful starters and contribute to the onset of nicotine addiction.(13,14)”

The references are listed and it is clear they have nothing to do with nicotine pouches.

Pouches are not “flavoured tobacco products”. Nor are they e-cigarettes and there is no evidence that they are attracting children. If there was, surely the WHO would be quick to reference research to that effect. Evidently there is none, so some misdirection was required.

Starting with this false premise of a threat to youth, the anonymous authors then spend 19 pages just talking about flavours and colours as if they are inherently a bad thing. At no point is there any balance applied by giving the counterargument that they may attract smokers away from far more dangerous combustible tobacco.

Most of the recommendations derive from the FCTC/COP/10/7 report which we covered here. It claims to cover “technical matters related to Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC (Regulation of contents and disclosure of tobacco products, including waterpipe, smokeless tobacco and heated tobacco products)” but takes the opportunity – beyond its mandate – to make sweeping recommendations on banning nicotine pouches.

And what evidence do they cite in favour of complete prohibition? The first reason they give is that they are popular. Heaven forbid!

The WHO is also appalled that pouches “have attractive properties, such as appealing flavours, and can be used discreetly without the stigma of smoking.” One would have thought this is a winning combination for an alternative to combustible tobacco, especially as these products are virtually indistinguishable from nicotine gum in terms of health risks. They work in exactly the same way, after all.

Instead, the WHO recommends that countries extend surveillance of these products, and regulate them to “to prevent all forms of marketing”.

They also suggest that countries “regulate non-therapeutic nicotine products in the same manner as products of similar appearance, content and use.” What does this mean, you ask? It means regulating nicotine pouches the same way as snus. And that means, in many countries, prohibition.

Frustratingly, it seems that the EU supports the WHO in making these recommendations, as revealed by MEP Charlie Weimers on social media.

So here we are in the familiar “quit-or-die” territory that the WHO and other tobacco control institutions are so fond of. If they have their way and nicotine pouches are banned despite no currently-known harms to their use, you can either go back to deadly smoking or buy them from the already dubious black market where there are no controls on ingredients and nicotine strength. Where child-friendly packaging is not only heavily prevalent but almost seems obligatory and where it is anyone’s guess who items on sale are made by.

Regulations, by their very nature, are supposed to reduce potential harms in the population. Yet these suggestions by an anonymous author of the nicotine pouches paper, and a WHO panel acting outside its remit, will remove products from the legal market which are significantly safer than smoking, enshrine illegal enterprises as the only supplier of a very simple-to-make product, while also offering protection for sales of combustible tobacco, the most dangerous nicotine delivery option out there.

Copwatch does not know whether this should be described as WHO personnel not thinking things through, or simply not thinking.

Human rights alert at #COP10

The FCTC Secretariat is working behind the scenes to impose a narrow view on human rights and tobacco within the UN system and amongst countries (the Parties to the Convention).

At a recent progress meeting of the UN Non-Communicable Disease Task Force Lynn Gentile from the UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasised that a ‘Human rights framework is indispensable to how we respond to health challenges such as NCDs and mental health’.

Tobacco was a key theme of the meeting. It was reported that Task Force members had agreed plans for ‘ensuring [a] successful conference and meeting of Parties on the Tobacco Control Framework Convention in Panama..’. This is an example of how UN officials work behind the scenes to influence the outcomes of Convention meetings.

It is also reported that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the FCTC Convention Secretariat are finalising a set of policy briefs that will provide governments with information about how tobacco control impacts different sectors. These documents will likely be made available at the last minute and are not on the published COP agenda.

Under its current leader Adriana Blanco Marquizo, the Convention Secretariat has anchored  its work across the whole UN system including on human rights. It presents a narrow view of tobacco control to other UN agencies which may have little specialist knowledge about tobacco.

The Secretariat report to COP (FCTC/COP/10/15)  on how human rights intersect with the work of the FCTC is one-sided and thin. It includes statements about protecting individuals from tobacco smoke, mention of the right to life, and mention of the highest attainable state of health and the rights of children and tobacco growers. The Secretariat fails to mention another stream of human rights work within the UN system, in which access to harm reduction resources is a key part of the right to health.  International human rights law supports harm reduction, a case initially made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and now acknowledged by many UN agencies who work on drugs and on HIV harm reduction. Access to safer nicotine products can be seen as part of the right to health in that people should be able to choose safer alternatives to smoking.

As Copwatch has been at pains to point out, tobacco harm reduction (THR) is, so far, absent from COP10. None of the documents nor reports intended to influence the Parties mention that safer nicotine products offer any opportunities for individual and public health. Safer nicotine products are presented as a threat to tobacco control, rather than as having potential to divert people from smoking and other risky tobacco use. 

The COP documents class all tobacco products together, and do not distinguish between high risk tobacco products and safer alternatives. We predict that the narrow human rights perspective proposed by the Secretariat will present safer nicotine products as much of a threat to the right to health as cigarettes. THR consumer advocacy groups are highlighting the right to access safer nicotine products. In an open letter addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – Volker Türk – 52 civil society organisations highlight the urgency of adopting strategies based on harm reduction and the right to health (see here for the English version). They ask that the UN system recognises harm reduction as obligatory under the right to health and that he encourages the WHO to recognise the legitimacy of harm reduction in relation to smoking, to encourage states to adopt harm reduction policies, and to encourage the participation of consumer groups at COP. It will be interesting to see the reply.

FCTC budget: nice work if you can get it

Here Copwatch brings you what you need to know about the COP10 documents relating to the FCTC budget. This covers three documents, all posted on the COP10 main documents page:

FCTC/COP/10/17 Proposed Workplan and Budget for the financial period 2024–2025, 

FCTC/COP/10/18 WHO FCTC Investment Fund, and

FCTC/COP/10/19 Rev.1 Payment of Assessed Contributions and measures to reduce Parties in arrears 

The first thing you need to know is that 59 Parties have not paid their contributions. That’s around one third of the FCTC membership. You should also know that the biggest funder of the FCTC is China. As we know, China is also home to the China Tobacco monopoly, the biggest cigarette company in the world.

Second, in the 2024-2025 period, the FCTC plans to spend some 17 million USD in direct expenses, excluding recovery costs (10/19 Rev1).  Almost half of this is for the salaries of WHO bureaucrats. Some 2 million USD out of the 8 million USD budgeted for salaries is expected to be covered by “extra-budgetary” contributions.  It seems likely that the ‘extra-budgetary’ contributions will come from rich donors, who will set the agenda in line with their interests, not the interests of people who smoke or the countries they reside in.

The single biggest non-salary cost, by far, is… the hosting of COP11 at almost 1.7 million USD. Copwatch is confused! In August, it was revealed that there was outrage in Panama at the revelation that the Ministry of Health (Minsa) had spent “$4,881,732.20 for the organisation of a conference against tobacco.” Is this 1.7 million USD in addition to that?

Now, how do you like that as a taxpayer? Given how secretive COPs are, you certainly won’t be able to judge if you are getting value for your money. 

Third, we are guessing that the investment fund launched at COP9 is not doing well. But, we can only guess, as there is nothing written down about that, instead it is promised that “the Convention Secretariat will provide a verbal update at the Tenth session of the COP (COP10) on the status of investment for the Fund.” (10/18). 

These documents reveal that the FCTC has run into another problem – that nobody wants to serve on the two oversight committees (“it was challenging to attract qualified candidates” – see 10/18). One committee was intended to serve the WHO FCTC Investment Fund and the other committee was for the Investment Fund to support the implementation of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (for which not a single person expressed interest to serve). As a result, the FCTC Secretariat proposes to merge the two committees into one, and will define its purpose, functions, authority, composition and selection, and various other administrative matters.

Here’s the problem with that proposal: the Oversight Committee members are supposed to be proposed by the Selection Committee. Who is the Selection Committee? The President and one Vice-President of the governing body of each treaty, as well as the Head of the Convention Secretariat. In other words, the people with the oversight are appointed by the very same people that they are supposed to oversee. Re-appointment of the Oversight Committee is again up to the Selection Committee.  

But does it really matter? We’re not so sure because the Oversight Committee is purely advisory and has no management, decision-making, or operational responsibility. It need only meet two times per year, and its recommendations can be fully disregarded by the COP and MOP. Finally, in line with the WHO’s ethos of covering things up, the minutes of the Oversight Committee meetings and their recommendations are to be provided to the COP and MOP bureaus only, and not shared with the COP or the MOP, or made public.

In summary:  the FCTC spends almost half of its money on its own salaries. The biggest funder is China, and some salaries are funded by wealthy donors (think Michael Bloomberg). The proposed rules ensure that no meaningful budget oversight will take place in the future. I think that we may have just solved the mystery of what is behind the WHO’s insane war on safer nicotine.

The WHO publishes anonymously-written papers designed to gaslight Parties at COP10

The one where COP delegates are invited to take opinions about vapes on trust

Copwatch has detailed many instances of the WHO and FCTC Secretariat playing fast and loose with evidence or cherry-picking research to suit its anti-harm reduction agenda. It is unscientific and shameful but nothing we have not seen before. But two new reports, on disposable vapes and nicotine pouches, have been published on a separate page to the main COP10 menu which seem specifically designed to mislead COP10 delegates based on nothing more than opinion. 

There is much that could be challenged in them, but the problem would be who to approach considering they are written anonymously. Are senior government officials attending the meeting in Panama from around the world expected to just take the misinformation on trust? 

Let’s discuss the first which concerns single use vapes (which the document charmlessly calls D-ENDS) and contains a number of unreferenced assumptions. 

Without any link to research, it claims that “there is a risk that [the] metal coil will release heavy metals in the heating process.” There may well be a risk, but there also may not. Students are discouraged from referring to Wikipedia for their studies, but at least entries there are rejected if an assumption is not backed up by a credible source. This WHO document does not concern itself with such probity despite being designed for the much more important role of educating government representatives about a vital area of public health. 

It asserts that “the addition of flavourings increases the toxicity of ENDS aerosol in a significant manner”, again without any evidence by way of back up. A Wikipedia reviewer would add [citation needed] but the WHO doesn’t seem to think it necessary. 

The document complains that “we also observe a strong industry lobbying activity to regulate newer products (heated tobacco products, or HTPs, snus and nicotine pouches, and ENDS in all its forms) as little as possible”, which those who recognise the significant benefits of harm reduction would find sensible. Parties are told to ignore this though because – and this may make your jaw drop – the WHO accuses industry of “insisting on rhetoric pretending that they are a “safer” alternative to tobacco products.”

Pretending? There is absolutely no doubt that those products are less harmful than combustible tobacco, with acres of scientific research to support the difference in risk. There is no pretence about it. The only fantasists here are the authors if they believe lower risk nicotine delivery is not safer. If so, how can they be qualified to write papers for the WHO? 

It is also worth noting that consumers and independent scientists are also in favour of light touch regulation, not just industry. Put this down as another flimsy attempt to cast harm reduction as an industry plot rather than a significant public health opportunity. 

It further criticises EU regulations on the strength of nicotine liquids, claiming that 20mg/ml “is already considered a strong concentration” but fails to say by whom. Many would disagree. No reference is given. 

Then the anonymous author or (authors) delve further into cloud cuckoo land. They “stress” that surveys show “D-ENDS prevalence was significantly on the rise and for most other products (HTPs, snus, nicotine pouches) prevalence had increased, and that no significant decrease was observed in cigarette prevalence.” 

Japanese sales of tobacco have declined by around 50% since heated tobacco products hit the market and the UK government recently agreed that vapes “are up to twice as effective as the available licensed nicotine replacement.” One must also wonder how the anonymous authors have missed the fact that Sweden is about to reach the EU smokefree 2040 target of less than 5% smoking prevalence 17 years early thanks to snus use. The WHO document also dreams that “young people could hyperventilate with a D-ENDS”[citation needed], and that “it is usually considered that an Elf bar 800 gives a nicotine equivalent of 60 cigarettes.” This is a regularly-cited snippet of disinformation amongst those opposed to vaping which has been succinctly dismissed as a myth by Action on Smoking and Health in the UK.

After cataloguing red herrings, myths, unsubstantiated opinion and unscientific rumour, our anonymous authors sum up by recommending that “many policies effective against tobacco should be implemented against disposable ENDS as well (plain packages, flavour bans, taxation, full advertisement bans, selling only under a licence system, etc.)”

Copwatch would like to ask a few questions. Who wrote this? What are their qualifications? Why are they offering nothing more than opinions without adequately backing them up with links? Why should Parties believe assertions which are supported by less evidence than would be considered necessary for a half-decent blog? 

The WHO and FCTC Bureau should not be in the business of publishing opinion pieces, which is the only way this document can be described. 

Most importantly, it would be dereliction of duty for Parties to COP10 to take this unevidenced, unprofessional, and superficial guidance seriously when contemplating recommendations in Panama for global regulations.

COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/4

The one where everyone marks their own homework

Here we continue the Copwatch guide to the documents provided to ‘educate’ national delegations at the COP10 conference in November, with a look at FCTC/COP/10/4

Produced by the Convention Secretariat, the subject for the report is ‘Global progress in implementation of the WHO FCTC’. The report is based on data submitted by the Parties (countries) and measures their progress in implementing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty into their national policy and regulatory frameworks.  

The Secretariat defines progress according to how far countries have implemented the FCTC  MPOWER measures, i.e. Monitoring tobacco use, Protecting people from tobacco smoke, Offering help to quit, Warning about dangers of tobacco use, Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, and Raising taxes on tobacco.

The report notes that implementation of the FCTC has been generally slow.  However, four countries are singled out for praise for adopting the FCTC MPOWER measures to the highest degree —Brazil, Mauritius, the Netherlands and Turkey .  

But, here’s the thing – the adoption of the MPOWER measures is not helping these countries to meet the crucial objective, i.e to reduce smoking.    

In Turkey, the prevalence of smoking is very high and has actually been increasing in recent years.  In  Brazil smoking is declining very slowly, from 10.8% in 2014 to 9.1% in 2021,  Mauritius also shows a tiny decrease from 19.3% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2021The Netherlands, home to a powerful tobacco control lobby, also performs poorly on smoking prevalence rates.   

All four countries, championed by WHO as best practice, perform well on MPOWER measures but perform badly on reducing smoking rates. Is it a coincidence that all four countries have also banned or severely restricted the availability of safer nicotine products?   

In comparison, countries where consumers have been switching to safer nicotine products in large numbers – Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK – have seen dramatic drops in smoking prevalence.  These successes are not celebrated by WHO. 

Lars M. Ramström, the eminent tobacco control researcher, politely points these uncomfortable truths out in his recent Commentary:

“The measures for Demand Reduction and Supply Reduction recommended by the WHO are certainly valuable tools. But the fight is not maximally effective without the third pillar stated in Article 1d of the FCTC – Harm Reduction.”
[Commentary] The WHO strategies to reduce tobacco-related deaths are insufficient, Lars M. Ramström 

Do read Professor Ramström’s short commentary in full. And, revisit our article from last year, where we reported that Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita, both independent experts with formerly senior roles in WHO, had said much the same thing:
https://copwatch.info/the-fctc-is-no-longer-fit-for-purpose-say-independent-experts/

Back to the COP10 official documents – these only confirm that the WHO and FCTC have forgotten about the 1 billion people who smoke, a number unchanged over three decades. WHO and the FCTC secretariat will not be part of the solution while they stubbornly continue with their ineffective MPOWER measures and obstruct tobacco harm reduction.

Alternative reading list for #COP10 delegates 

The official FCTC COP10 documents are listed on the Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties website.  COPWATCHERS will notice that tobacco harm reduction is absent from those official documents, with no consideration given to the opportunities offered by safer nicotine products.   Here we have compiled a list of articles to round off the COP10 delegates’ education.  Tweet to @FCTCcopwatch if you think we have missed anything out.  

15 past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
Balancing Consideration of the Risks and Benefits of E-Cigarettes

Action on Smoking and Health
Addressing common myths about vaping: Putting the evidence in context

Robert Beaglehole, Ruth Bonita 
Harnessing tobacco harm reduction  (The Lancet)

Clive Bates
FCTC COP-10 – a survival guide for delegates

(COP-10)Commentary on the Annotated Agenda (COP-10)

Evidence briefs for tobacco harm reduction

Eyes on the Ball

Fake news alert: WHO updates its post-truth fact sheet on e-cigarettes

One hundred specialists call for WHO to change its hostile stance on tobacco harm reduction – new letter to FCTC delegates published

Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany)
Health risk assessment of nicotine pouches

Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA)
Shadow Report on the (NON)-Implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 1 (d) on Harm Reduction Strategies

Grant Churchill
A Captivating Compound

Cochrane
Latest Cochrane Review finds high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in helping people quit smoking

Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation: Cochrane Living Systematic Review

Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP): an explainer

The FCTC COP10 Agenda and supporting documents: implications for the future of tobacco harm reduction (available in 13 languages)

Office for Health Improvements and Disparities (formerly Public Health England)
Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings

Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update summary

Queen Mary University of London
Population study finds no sign that e-cigarettes are a gateway into smoking

Lars Ramström
[Commentary] The WHO strategies to reduce tobacco-related deaths are insufficient

Harry Shapiro
Harry’s Blog 119: Who cares about tobacco control?

Tobacco Harm Reduction net
COP10 scorecard – Measuring progress in achieving the objectives of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

#COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/9

The one where the WHO tries to redefine smoke and hides inconvenient evidence

To continue the Copwatch guide to documents being provided to ‘educate’ national delegations at the COP10 conference in November, here is a look at FCTC/COP/10/9, published in July. 

This document deals with heated tobacco products but, as we shall see, it is not very impressive. It claims to “examine the challenges that novel and emerging tobacco products are posing for the comprehensive application of the WHO FCTC … as requested in paragraph 3 of decision FCTC/COP8/(22).”

But a quick look at the COP8 decision they refer to shows this does nothing of the sort. In 2018, the WHO asked the FCTC Secretariat:

“to prepare a comprehensive report, with scientists and experts, independent from the tobacco industry, and competent national authorities, to be submitted to the Ninth session of the COP on research and evidence on novel and emerging tobacco products, in particular heated tobacco products, regarding their health impacts including on non-users, their addictive potential, perception and use, attractiveness, potential role in initiating and quitting smoking, marketing including promotional strategies and impacts, claims of reduced harm, variability of products, regulatory experience and monitoring of Parties, impact on tobacco control efforts and research gaps”

Phew, quite a workload! 

The COP8 decision further requested, after that large body of work had been completed, that a report be drawn up to “subsequently propose potential policy options to achieve the objectives and measures” of the FCTC treaty. 

It has been 5 years since COP8 and that decision, but in that time the FCTC Secretariat and their laboratories (known as TobLabNet) appear to have done next to nothing to expand the evidence base. FCTC/COP/10/9 regularly boasts about how very little they know on the subject. 

“Independent … data on the health and environmental impact of these novel tobacco products is incipient” (that’s a posh word for just beginning)

“The knowledge of these novel and emerging tobacco products has been rapidly increasing, but information on their long-term health effects is limited”

“[T]here are limited data available on uptake of HTPs by adolescents, as well as former smokers and non-smokers.” 

It begs the question what, if anything, has the WHO been doing in the last five years since COP8? Countries who have ratified the FCTC treaty do not pay large amounts of taxpayer money for the WHO’s institutions to just sit on their hands for half a decade. Perhaps delegations at COP10 should be asking some searching questions of the Secretariat on the matter. 

Having airily skipped over the yawning chasm of missing research that they were supposed to have gathered on heated tobacco in just four pages, the FCTC/COP/10/9 document then spends the rest of the 18 pages discussing what bans and restrictions should be put in place. Predictably, they demand that heated tobacco should be treated exactly the same as combustible cigarettes, despite HTPs having been found by the UK Committee on Toxicity and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States to be far less harmful than smoking. 

Copwatch also noted the authors of FCTC/COP/10/9 putting on their philosopher’s hat and promoting strange theories of what constitutes smoke. “Can the aerosols of novel and emerging tobacco products qualify as “tobacco smoke?”, they theorize, before answering their own question with a far-fetched explanation. “Yes … strictly speaking, visible aerosols deriving in whole or in part from thermally driven chemical reactions qualify as “smoke”, even when combustion is not involved in the process.”

They are very certain about this, further explaining that “these aerosols are clearly within the scientific definition of “smoke”, and any smoke emitted by HTPs is unambiguously “tobacco smoke.”

The definition of unambiguous is “not open to more than one interpretation” according to Oxford Languages, which will be a surprise to German and Swedish courts who have both found otherwise. 

In September 2021, a decision in a German court struck down the German government’s classification of heated tobacco as “tobacco products for smoking”. A hearing on the merits of a Philip Morris product resulted in the court ordering the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety to annul their prior decision and to classify them as “smokeless tobacco products” instead.

A similar case in Sweden in September 2022 came to the same conclusion. The Swedish Public Health Authority (PHA) had decided to classify heated tobacco as “tobacco products for smoking” but was ordered to change this by the court, which held that the PHA’s decision was not in line with any scientific definition of combustion. The court concluded that heated tobacco is not consumed through combustion and “is therefore rightly a smokeless tobacco product.”

Neither the German or Swedish governments appealed the decisions and the definitions are now final and binding in both countries.

Copwatch believes that the WHO is well aware of these court decisions, but just chooses to ignore them. At the foot of the FCTC/COP/10/9 document is an annex which details “several approaches to classify or regulate” heated tobacco in a number of different countries. Note that it says “several” and not all. This is because Germany and Sweden are not amongst them. 

Countries which have ratified the FCTC are allowed to regulate heated tobacco as they wish, smokeless or not, but there are not many cases testing whether the aerosol is smoking or not. In Germany and Sweden there were such cases and the courts decided it is not smoke. 

It would be incredibly inconvenient if the WHO had to admit in its annex that their “unambiguous” definition of smoke is not unambiguous, after all. So they just hide the information from delegates instead. 

To sum up FCTC/COP/10/9, the WHO repeatedly says it does not know much about heated tobacco, but at the same time it is apparent that no work is being done to find out. It recommends treating less harmful products the same as combustible tobacco based on a definition of smoke which is not borne out when tested in court, and it gives the delegations which will be attending COP10 all the information they need to make decisions, except information which the WHO finds inconvenient. 

And we pay for this?

More trouble in little Panama

In June, Copwatch mentioned, in passing, that a series of nationwide protests and blockades had taken place in COP10 host country, Panama, recently. Cost-of-living concerns, mistrust of government officials, poverty, inequality and corruption have led to much discontent.

The upcoming arrival of 1200 delegates for the WHO’s conference in November is not likely to lighten the mood. Panamanian news outlet, TVN Noticias, has broken a story on Instagram which must feel like a slap in the face for the country’s struggling citizens. 

“In the midst of a crisis due to the shortage of medicines, medical supplies and hospital structures in poor condition, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) published on the Panama Compra portal a tender for $4,881,732.20 for the organization of a conference against tobacco.”

You can guess what’s coming next. 

“According to the publication made on the portal, this is an exceptional online listing procedure for hiring a company for the organization of the Tenth Conference of the Parties of the World Health Organization for tobacco control.”

It is unclear what is included in the funding, but over $4,000 per delegate sounds steep, perhaps they all receive 24 carat gold-plated invitations. Accordingly, some are more than unhappy that their taxes are being spent so lavishly on a junket for highly-paid civil servants to jaw about tobacco and nicotine. 

“My God, with half of that money” complains Medical Director, Fernando Castaneda to La Prensa Panamá, “we can buy incubators for newborns, thousands of medicines, supplies, and equipment to replace all the damaged ones we have.”

One must presume that Dr Castaneda feels strongly that Panama has its priorities somewhat skewed and that medical equipment is more important than trying to ban nicotine pouches. He has obviously not considered the pride and boost to self-esteem the Panamanian public will derive from hosting a conference that almost no-one knows is taking place and which is held behind closed doors. 

#COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/7

The one where the WHO denies quitting smoking is quitting smoking, and other daydreaming

In the first Copwatch guide to documents being provided to ‘educate’ national delegations at the COP10 conference in November, let us look at FCTC/COP/10/7, published on 1st August.

This is the third report on articles 9 and 10 ((Regulation of contents and disclosure of tobacco products, including waterpipe, smokeless tobacco and heated tobacco products). You can read the document on the FCTC website to confirm our quotations below.

The first thing Copwatch noticed was how many (or, more accurately, how few) mentions there were of adults within the text of its 25 pages. For the good of our readers, we painstakingly counted them so you don’t have to. Fortunately, it did not take long as there were only two. Yes, two.

Once in terms of a target to reduce “adult smoking” by 2025 (page 2), which you would expect in a report preamble of this nature. The second was in a derogatory way by describing heated tobacco being used by “young adults” (page 10). By contrast, word searching “children” returns 23 results, “adolescents” 24, and “youth” 15.

There must be around 10 times as many adults on the planet as minors, but the WHO either does not notice them or considers them irrelevant. This could explain why the document is devoid of any references which suggest lower risk nicotine products are helping the 100 million+ adults who use them to quit smoking, which they undoubtedly are.

The WHO denies this, of course, because the authors of FCTC/COP/10/7 appear intent on redefining what quitting smoking is, as stated on page 8.

“Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, there is a critical need across the studies to uniformly define ‘cessation’, and whether a person who has switched from conventional cigarettes to ongoing use of ENDS [vapes] can be considered to have successfully “quit “.”

The document also denies that people who smoke are switching to vaping products at all, also on page 8.

“Overall, the certainty of the evidence across the studies and reviews is often rated as ”low” or “insufficient”.

It will not surprise you that this bang up-to-date WHO report does not cite the latest evidence from Cochrane, the global gold standard of evidence reviews, from November, which found high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in helping people quit smoking.”

FCTC/COP/10/7 also contains a section on nicotine pouches (page 16), which do not produce smoke and are not made from tobacco. The FCTC objective states clearly in Article 3 that its purpose is to reduce consequences and prevalence of “tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke” so this focus on pouches is mission creep unwarranted by the terms of the WHO’s own treaty.

The WHO worries that pouches “have attractive properties, such as appealing flavours, and can be used discretely (sic) without the stigma of smoking”. It reports that its TobReg study group has “made a number of recommendations to policy makers and all other interested parties” which can be found “in Chapter 4 and Chapter 7 (Overall Recommendations) of TobReg’s Ninth report.”

Do not Google for that, though, as it has been published for all “interested parties” except the public who pay for the WHO through our taxes. A secret document, about a product which is not covered by the FCTC treaty, being shared with people who, if they were doing their job correctly, should be telling the WHO that nicotine pouches are none of their business at COP10. (UPDATE: Since publishing our article the TobReg Ninth report was published, on 23.08.23, download from here.)

This is not the only secret report referenced in FCTC/COP/10/7. There is another described as “supplementary information to this report” which discusses flavours in nicotine pouches and how they are advertised. It is available on the WHO FCTC website. By available, they mean available to them, not the likes of us.

It apparently notes that pouches come in “a wide variety of sweet and fruity flavours”, “amplify the visibility of pouch promotion”, “sponsor a wide variety of events” and offer “free or heavily discounted samples.” Otherwise known as companies producing safer nicotine products consumers might like and making them aware they exist.

The WHO is also not happy about pouch manufacturers claiming that their products offer “freedom to use anywhere”, are “innovative/modern/high tech, stealthy/discrete (sic) to use”, and benefit users for “no smell/teeth stains, and as a means of smoking cessation.” All of which is true, but perhaps the WHO has forgotten the meaning of truth at the same time as it forgot the definition of smoke and quitting smoking.

The report next turns its guns on single use vapes (page 17), for which it has engineered a new acronym, D-ENDS. It says that they “were introduced around 2018–2019 and began circulating on global markets” which will come as a revelation for those who were using disposable products from 2007 before refillable tanks were invented up to 2013 when the first heavily commercial disposable was marketed while open systems made by independent producers were still in their infancy

Still, FCTC/COP/10/7 helpfully reports that “a background paper on the characteristics, marketing, challenges of D-ENDS, as well as the regulatory considerations” has been produced “to provide authoritative guidance to its Member States.” That has not been published either.

Lastly, the document takes aim at flavours (page 18). “Flavours are often cited as the primary reason for youth to try a tobacco or nicotine product”, it boldly claims. Sadly, this is not true, either. Action on Smoking and Health in the UK released a report on August 3rd to correct myths about vaping. It was unequivocal that the evidence does not support flavours as a “primary reason” for children to take up vaping.

            The main reason children vape is because they like the flavours: NO

The main reason children give for vaping is ‘to give it a try’, cited by a quarter (26%) of those who have smoked tobacco and more than a half (54%) of those who have never smoked. The next most common reason is because ‘other people use them, so I join in’, in other words peer pressure, cited by 21% of ever smokers and 18% of never smokers. Liking the flavours comes third on the list, cited by 16%of ever smokers and 12% of never smokers as their reason for trying vaping.

It is not true in the USA either. The latest national survey data shows flavours are way down the list, just below the ability to do tricks.

Copwatch has failed to find any evidence that flavours are “the primary reason” for youth to try a nicotine product anywhere in the world.

The organization the WHO cites for its wildly inaccurate claim is STOP, a heavily Bloomberg-funded production. The three articles it refers to are all about flavours in combustible tobacco and present no evidence whatsoever that flavours are a “primary reason” for youth to try non-combustible nicotine products.

The FCTC/COP/10/7 report concludes by asking delegates to “note this report and to provide further guidance.” May we suggest that Parties to the treaty note the report and invite the WHO to come back with something which could be categorised in libraries as non-fiction?

The WHO releases new report on the ‘tobacco epidemic’ and how to maintain it

The World Health Organization released the 9th edition of its Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic on the last day of July. The 8th edition, published in 2021, did not mention tobacco until page 9, instead beginning with “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) are addictive and not without harm” in large bold font and declaring that the devices should be strictly regulated. 

To open with an intention to obstruct products which could alleviate the “tobacco epidemic” was an odd approach for the 8th report, but the new update carries on in much the same vein. 

It clearly shows that the avalanche of misinformation and disinformation towards nicotine alternatives to smoking will be perpetuated in the lead up to #COP10. The latest report also confirms that the campaign against harm reduction is indeed being sponsored and paid for to maintain relevance of outdated concepts and to vilify tobacco harm reduction in the court of public opinion.

The acknowledgements page is very revealing. Profuse thanks are offered to Bath University, The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and Vital Strategies, all of which enjoy lavish funding provided by Michael Bloomberg. Very fitting considering the WHO declares that “Production of this WHO document has been supported by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies” which, in tobacco control circles, is not considered a conflict of interest. 

Tobacco control world – much like Barbie world – operates in the realm of fantasy and imagination rather than real life. 

It is also telling to note which organizations are not cited in the report. No mention, for example, of Public Health England or the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities in the United Kingdom which are positive about vaping. Nor is there mention of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the United States which has produced encouraging evidence of the potential for harm reduction. 

We are sure they have been very active, but perhaps the WHO lost their work down the back of the sofa.

The United States is the biggest funder of the WHO and the UK in the top five, yet their most prominent academic institutions are ignored in this new report. Thumbing its nose at governments providing a weighty proportion of the WHO budget could be considered as somewhat rude. 

There is also no mention of the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco, or the article by 15 of its former presidents which examined the beneficial potential of vaping for public health. The Cochrane library is cited six times on various aspects of tobacco control activity, but the institution’s research finding there is “high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in helping people quit smoking” is not one of them. 

Cynical people (unlike those at Copwatch, of course) might assume that there is some cherry-picking going on for inclusion of evidence for the report, while Bloomberg’s anti-nicotine minions are given pay-to-play access to write it. 

This latest document will be one spoon fed to delegations at COP10, which suggests the WHO is not intending to provide delegates with an unbiased and accurate picture of tobacco harm reduction. 

It is one of many to have been published in recent weeks for Parties to COP10. Watch this space for further analysis of published COP10 documents at Copwatch very soon.

The road to FCTC #COP10

COP10 preparations are advancing when it comes to the FCTC Secretariat. The provisional agenda and some other documents were published earlier this month.

Going from the agenda we can expect a fully packed discussion on substantive items. Readers will remember that COP9 was virtual and that although discussions were tortuous (refresh your memory with our COP live reporting), there was no discussion on ‘substantive items’. This in person COP10 in Panama promises to be a proper bun fight – and we just wonder whether the allotted week will be sufficient. 

We will be analysing the available documentation and will share our thoughts on those with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are some of our quick observations.

The documents already published show we can expect substantive discussions on these subjects: 

  •  Articles 9 (Regulation of the contents of tobacco products) and 10 (Regulation of tobacco product disclosures).  There are  two reports published so far: here and here.  Non-combustible safer alternatives to smoking will be affected.
  • Discussion specifically on ‘novel and emerging tobacco products’, i.e. the safer alternatives to smoking, such as vapes, nicotine pouches, Heated Tobacco Products and snus. 

As you might have already noticed, whilst the Secretariat has been so generous with some documents there are some key pieces of the puzzle that are still outstanding, including:

  • Reports on Articles 9 and 10 (FCTC/COP/10/7),
  • Reports on novel products (FCTC/COP/10/9 and FCTC/COP/10/10),
  • and the draft decisions attached to those.

These missing pieces will show the direction WHO wants to go for alternatives to smoking. Will WHO be dismissing the science behind alternatives to cigarettes yet again? Keep an eye on COPWATCH for analysis and updates. 

And here’s a reminder – should your organisation wish to apply for Observer status please be aware that the deadline to apply is 22 August:

https://fctc.who.int/who-fctc/governance/observers

Do let us know how you get on. 

Big trouble in little Panama

The World Health Organization is often criticised for incompetence in a number of its policy focuses, not solely for its calamitous, head-in-the-sand position on lower-risk alternatives to smoking. But in the practice of handing awards to its buddies, it can only be described as a triumphant global expert.

To celebrate World No Tobacco Day in May, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros liberally dished out a number of motivational gongs to high-ranking members of its secretive club, and spoke in particularly glowing terms about a Special Recognition Award to Reina Roa Rodríguez, who is almost royalty in the WHO cabal. 

Dr Roa is Panama’s Focal Point for Tobacco Control, and Vice President of the WHO’s Bureau of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (MOP), but you may remember her more for featuring in two previous Copwatch updates. 

In April, Copwatch reported that Dr Roa was being investigated by Panamanian authorities for “administrative irregularities” over a conflict of interest in her role as an “independent” adviser to the Ministry of Health. Questions arose over the Panamanian Coalition Against Tabaquismo (COPACET), of which she is founder, accepting a Bloomberg Philanthropies Award for Global Tobacco Control as a reward for successfully designing public policies which aligned perfectly with the goals of, you guessed it, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The investigation did not get very far as she promptly resigned. 

Now Dr Roa is embroiled in more controversy. In her capacity as National Coordinator of Tobacco Control of the Ministry of Health, she is responsible for arranging transport for patients in critical or serious condition to hospitals located in remote areas, for which reimbursement payments are made. 

It is alleged that there have been many discrepancies in her book-keeping for these services. Billed hours did not match those recorded on transfer request forms, invoices were found without proof of patient admission in medical records, and incomplete request forms have been discovered, with no information which correlates with the transport required.

According to a letter processed by the Court of Accounts, Dr Roa is facing an order to freeze her assets, pending repayment of $87,930. 

Panama was rocked last year by a series of nationwide protests and blockades. They were prompted by cost-of-living concerns, exacerbated by deep-seated mistrust of government officials accused of feasting on taxpayer funds, and complaints about poverty, inequality and corruption in the country. 

Dr Roa has been a Ministry of Health employee since 1986, with latest filings showing she is paid $4,294 per month, roughly five times the average Panamanian salary. In the current political climate, with the Panamanian public angry at how their leaders are behaving, it is surely unimaginable that such a stalwart of upstanding public health, a WHO high priestess and recent awardee, no less, would stoop to feathering the nest further by doctoring (no pun intended) documents for health services. 

We are sure this is merely a simple misunderstanding which will be cleared up before criminal charges are filed against Dr Roa. 

Or perhaps she could just resign again.  

Yet another murky WHO meeting

Copwatch has often referred to the opaque nature of the WHO’s Conference of the Parties meetings. It is fully expected that the COP10 meeting in Panama will follow the same path of operating behind closed doors, as best described in this briefing from 2021.

“Also excluded are advocacy NGOs representing people directly affected by tobacco control regimes. This includes smokers and users of safer nicotine products. The involvement of the tobacco industry in the production of some but by no means all safer nicotine products means that advocacy organisations in favour of tobacco harm reduction, including numerous vaping or snus consumer advocacy organisations, are excluded de facto.”

The shadowy and forever hidden activities of the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum (GTRF) have also been documented on these pages. Most recently in April

“A small group of researchers, who are not keen on tobacco harm reduction, cherry-picking studies which agree with their preconceived beliefs, and citing unpublished papers from a small selection of WHO members resulting from secret meetings which are not minuted, all funded by a country which is not a Party to the Convention.”

Minutes from the last two FCTC Bureau meetings in November and March have still not surfaced either, as Copwatch has reported before

Now we must add yet another murky WHO meeting to the ever-growing list. 

The UN event management system carries a short notice about an event called the Global Consultation on Novel and Emerging Nicotine and Tobacco Products which is to take place in Geneva between 21 and 23 June. There is no further publicly available information about this meeting. We can assume though that this event is highly likely to be a preparation for COP10 and the work the WHO and the FCTC Secretariat are doing to recommend the full equalisation of all novel products with cigarettes in reports to be presented to the Parties. 

Framed as a consultation, Copwatch expects the result will be dedicated publications, such as these on heated tobacco and vaping products which were issued after a global consultations led by the EURO WHO region before the last COP. 

No-one outside of the WHO FCTC bubble will be allowed to view this latest secret meeting, nor do we expect to see published minutes. 

The WHO website contains a page on transparency, which confidently declares: 

“To build trust, communicators must be transparent about how WHO analyses data and how it makes recommendations and policies.

“Communicators must rapidly and publicly report the participants, processes and conclusions of guideline development meetings.”

Presumably, this is their idea of a joke.

Consumer groups challenging the WHO FCTC – Who will be next?

Now is the time for making our voices heard.

At the beginning of May, Copwatch briefly referenced potential dangers to reduced risk nicotine products at COP10 discussed in recent WHO documents which have been highlighted by the New Nicotine Alliance UK. 

The British consumer organisation launched a call to action in March to encourage “supporters, consumers of reduced risk nicotine products, and others who understand the benefits of harm reduction” to write to their elected representatives and also to the assigned UK focal point to the FCTC Bureau and European region. 

It has started something of a movement. 

In April, four French groups led by consumer association, SoVape, followed suit and began their own similar campaign, declaring that “an offensive against vaping is being prepared ahead of COP10.” A week later, Italian group ANPVU joined the party by inviting Italian consumers to do the same. 

End Cigarette Smoking in Thailand, a consumer association with over 100,000 online followers, also threw their hat in the ring on May 5th, with a press release urging the Thai government and focal point to object to WHO plans to apply bans and restrictions to vaping products at the COP10 meeting in Panama in November. 

Prior to previous COP meetings, the FCTC Secretariat has enjoyed a comfortable ride in producing biassed materials to guide national delegations into hostility towards harm reduction. 

WHO appointees to the FCTC Bureau and Secretariat have always thrived under the cloak of secrecy they cleverly weaved around preparations for COP conferences. They have been mostly unchallenged when ignoring evidence on the effectiveness of safer nicotine and peddling their anti-harm reduction agenda to member delegations. But it appears consumer groups all around the world are alive to their antics this year. 

We are sure that there will be policymakers in the above-mentioned countries finding out for the first time that the WHO is riding roughshod over the concerns of their citizens. With another month or so before delegations form their country positions, messages from the public could be crucial.  

The agenda for COP10 will not be produced until September so there is still time for many other consumer groups to start their own campaigns and we are sure they will. It is becoming quite trendy. 

Speaking truth to power is widely regarded as a virtuous action, but the WHO has been at pains to minimise the risk of this happening with their COP preparations over the years. Engagement with the WHO and their appointed FCTC administrative bureaucracies has been made deliberately impossible, but it is national governments who make the decisions at COP meetings and, unless they are set up as a dictatorship like the WHO, they are beholden to their electorate. 

Copwatch is keen to see which national consumer group will be next out of the blocks to urge their followers to get involved in the COP10 process via the democratic process. Could it be yours? 

If so, time is of the essence. The registration process for submitting national delegations opened on 8 May, so governments will already be thinking about who to send to COP10. The sooner they hear our voices, the better. 

We will be adding the current initiatives to our campaigns tab and look forward to adding more in the near future.

April – victory month for harm reduction

For those valuing a non-dogmatic stance on health issues, one which is rooted in considering the real-life effects of science, and open to contributions from the people most affected – April presented a major success for harm reduction advocates.

For the first time in UN history the notion of harm reduction appeared in the politically negotiated UN resolution on drug policy. Until then harm reduction had only been mentioned in the context of HIV/AIDS. The resolution adopted at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council mentions a harm reduction approach among other health responses and underlines that support for harm reduction is not qualified as being subject to national legislation.

Furthermore, it seems that including harm reduction in drug control policies is even approved of by the mighty WHO. In a recently published publication the WHO points to the fact that “harm reduction is one of the key elements of a public health promotion framework (or response) that has been proven highly effective in reducing and mitigating the harms of injecting drug use for individuals and communities”.

There is more and more evidence that the so-called “war on drugs” is failing and that new approaches, such as harm reduction, need to be considered. Experts who gathered at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Melbourne in mid-April said that the evidence is in and that it is time for the world to adopt a new approach, one which includes harm reduction solutions. Examples of harm reduction solutions include medically supervised settings for people who inject drugs and decriminalizing drug use.

In the context of the above we would like to point to the fact that the UN resolution, the WHO publication and the experts gathered in Melbourne all recognize the crucial role of civil society and affected communities. Also, that work must be done to involve and engage meaningfully with a diverse representation of civil society and affected communities in their efforts to address all aspects of the world drug problem.

[Hearing this, we allow ourselves a hollow laugh at the recent decisions to reject the participation of nicotine consumer associations in FCTC COP proceedings.]

Setting appropriate, science-based drug policies is extremely important for the affected populations. We can only dream of one day posting a COPWATCH article announcing that FCTC COP recognizes a harm reduction approach in tobacco control, one which includes recognition of the potential of products which reduce harm for people who smoke. 20 years ago the WHO Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation stated that “the major acceptable public health rationale for development of new or modified tobacco products is the potential for a reduction in the harm caused by existing tobacco products”. There is now a portfolio of such products, so why have they abandoned harm reduction?

Introducing the authors of the COP10 agenda – the FCTC Bureau

The New Nicotine Alliance in the UK has done a good job of highlighting the threats to harm reduction which could materialise at COP10 in this document. Their call to action lists them as being:

  • A ban on all open system vaping products
  • A ban of all flavours except tobacco
  • A ban on nicotine salts in vaping products
  • Regulating products so that they are all exactly the same and restrict delivery of nicotine
  • Demanding that countries around the world treat vaping and heated tobacco products the same as combustible tobacco
  • Taxation at the same rate as cigarettes, banning use where smoking is prohibited, large graphic health warnings, plain packaging, and a ban on all advertising, promotion and sponsorship

The nature of these may seem far-fetched to the casual reader, so how realistic is it that what seems to be a full-on assault on vaping will make it onto the COP10 agenda? 

Copwatch decided to investigate by looking at the make-up of the FCTC Bureau, the body which will be writing the agenda. It would be preferable if they published their November and March meeting minutes so we could read the plans first-hand but, as Copwatch reported previously, it seems their typewriter is still at the repairers. 

The Bureau comprises six representatives, one from each of the WHO’s regions, and its role is to make policy proposals which are then circulated to regional coordinators. Surely they will reject the outlandish attacks on vaping and other products contained in WHO reports circulated to the Parties, won’t they? 

The five Vice-Presidents come from Uruguay, Netherlands, Australia, Sri Lanka and Oman. Each of their country policies on vaping are listed below:
Uruguay, vaping products are banned.
Sri Lanka, vaping products are banned.
Oman, vaping products are banned.
Australia, vaping products are banned without a prescription (which are hard to come by).


Netherlands, vaping products are allowed but, from July, e-liquid will be restricted to contain just 16 ingredients which make it impossible to form any flavour at all, including tobacco. The Presidency of the Bureau is held by Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) which has no specific law regarding vaping products, though we are sure it will have soon judging by the company its Bureau representative keeps.

We suppose there is a chance that these fine, upstanding, Bureau-crats will take heed of the increasing evidence that vaping is a huge potential prize for public health around the globe and set a sensible agenda for COP10. Probably about the same chance that we at Copwatch have of flying to the moon.

The WHO meetings that never are or were

You may think this stinks like a week old fish. There is a WHO meeting taking place this week for three days which you will not have heard of. That’s because you are not meant to. It is the intention of the WHO and FCTC Secretariat that the meeting takes place in secret and those present do not report its discussions. Ever. 

Copwatch alerted readers to the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum (GTRF) last year. We described it as a “WHO meeting organised behind closed doors” which excludes key stakeholders including “sovereign nations who are signatories to the FCTC.”

Say what you like about the COP meetings but at least there are documents published, eventually, to let the public know what happened. COP10, like previous meetings, will also allow all 182 signatories to the treaty (national governments) to have their say before making legally binding decisions. Neither is true of the GTRF, which conducts its affairs like a beast in the attic, totally unseen. It also comprises just 10 to 15 carefully selected countries. So, not really a ‘global’ meeting at all. 

Thanks to the Indian Ministry of Health’s list of international events, we know that the latest meeting of this shadowy group is taking place from 25 to 27 April. Meeting minutes will not be published and what is discussed will not be revealed to most Parties to the FCTC, let alone the public. 

The USA’s Food and Drug Administration has been funding the GTRF meetings for a decade since 2013, and has already planned further grants for the next five years which will bring the total up to $9.25 million. Ironic considering that the United States is not even a Party to the FCTC treaty yet FDA officials are part of the GTRF steering committee.

Maybe it is just an innocent chit-chat, right? No. 
The WHO study group on tobacco product regulation, known as TobReg (a group of nine so-called experts) collates evidence to inform Parties to the treaty in advance of COP meetings. The latest TobReg report has made references to unpublished GTRF papers in its guidance for COP10.

This is what delegations to COP10 are being presented with before this year’s meeting. A small group of researchers, who are not keen on tobacco harm reduction, cherry-picking studies which agree with their preconceived beliefs, and citing unpublished papers from a small selection of WHO members resulting from secret meetings which are not minuted, all funded by a country which is not a Party to the Convention. 

Many of you, like us, will be of the view that this whiffs like a sea bass well past its prime. But for the FCTC Secretariat, it’s just another day in the office, manipulating signatories to the treaty and abusing its position and purpose. 

Although we know that this GTRF meeting is taking place in India this week, that is all we will ever know. It seems that the WHO has only two rules on the matter. The first rule is that they do not talk about GTRF. The second rule is: they DO NOT talk about GTRF!

It appears that, when it comes to the FCTC treaty, some signatories are more equal than others.

Who is the new WHO French guy?

The World Health Organization’s Director General has appointed a new leadership team following his re-election last year. Naturally, we are interested in who has been handed the brief of overseeing the WHO’s future efforts towards smoking and nicotine. 

According to Health Policy Watch, the appointee is Dr Jérôme Salomon from France, who will act as Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage, Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases. Copwatch believes it prudent that his credentials be checked for suitability in such an important role so we have investigated his track record.

Firstly, it appears that he finds mathematics challenging. In 2019, in his position as director of the General Directorate for Health (DGS) he appeared on French TV confidently stating that half of all French high school students were vaping and that one in six were doing so every day. Embarrassingly for Jérôme, this merely highlighted his confusion. 

As explained by Vapolitique, Jérôme’s statement misunderstood not one, but two, different surveys. 50.3% of students in just one city, Saint-Etienne not France, had said they experimented with vaping, but Jérôme failed to mention that the study also recorded only 3.6% were doing so daily. The Saint-Etienne survey was also not consistent with national data which showed lower vaping use nationally. 

His claim that one in six were vaping daily is arguably more embarrassing. Although the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) study applied across France, the percentage of adolescents Jérôme cited were only recorded as vaping once or more, not daily. We are certain that this was a compound error brought about by a misunderstanding of data and he was not lying to the public, of course.  

Jérôme later generated controversy with his role in France’s COVID-19 efforts. In 2018, he had ordered destruction of face masks to save money which meant, when the virus struck, the country suffered a shortage of supplies. The administrative court of Paris found that, instead of admitting the mistake, Jérôme ordered a scientific report be changed to justify his decision. This led one Senator to remark that “faced with the shortage of masks, instead of speaking the truth, the government masked the shortage.”

Having survived that scandal, Jérôme set about to further his work extinguishing vaping products as a means of quitting smoking. Between 2016 and 2019, smoking rates plummeted in France due to the advent of vaping. The government reacted to this by including vaping in their annual stop smoking event, Mois Sans Tabac (Month Without Tobacco). Consumer organisations were recruited to give expert advice on how vaping can help smokers quit, understandable considering vaping had become the most popular cessation method. 

Jérôme took office as head of DGS in 2018 and proceeded to reverse this progress. He set up a committee to discuss tobacco control in France and personally opposed the participation of consumer groups in the process without giving any justification. In 2022, Mois Sans Tabac went ahead without any mention of vaping products, effectively eradicated over time by Jérôme. As consumer group La Vape Du Coeur remarked, “How is it that the most popular (and most effective) means of risk reduction was so hidden during this emblematic month of the fight against tobacco?” having been embraced from 2016 previously. 

To sum up, the WHO’s new head of policy on tobacco and nicotine has shown he is incapable of understanding quantitative research, is willing to massage scientific data to hide inconvenient facts, refuses to listen to consumers, and is ideologically opposed to vaping despite its track record of reducing smoking rates in his country. 

Jérôme is a perfect fit for the WHO. But for the good of global public health, not so much.

Panamanian party poopers?

Past COP events have occasionally been somewhat embarrassing for the WHO. Could COP10 follow this trend? 

Who can forget when an outbreak of Ebola in Africa in the run-up to COP6 in 2014 presented then WHO Director General, Margaret Chan, with a dilemma? Should she travel to Africa, where a lethal disease was brutally killing citizens, or to the COP6 Moscow venue to chat about tobacco over tea with Vladimir Putin? She chose the latter, naturally. 

Or COP7 in New Delhi where delegates from all over the world convened to discuss exaggerated health threats from vaping just as one of the worst smogs in living memory descended on the city. The New York Times reported that over 1,800 schools were closed and the public exposed to pollution equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, as if to remind the WHO what a real public health crisis looks like on the eve of their flagship tobacco control event.  

The last Copwatch post reported on Dr. Reina Roa, who has accepted an award from Bloomberg Philanthropies and is now being investigated by Panamanian authorities for “administrative irregularities” over what is a clear conflict of interest in her role as an “independent” adviser to the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Roa would appear to be an odd choice for an independent adviser considering she has been a Ministry of Health employee since 1986, with latest filings showing she is paid $4,294 per month, roughly five times the average Panamanian salary.  

As well as being feted by Bloomberg acolytes, Dr. Roa is extremely close to the WHO, having led ratification of the FCTC treaty and having served as Representative at the FCTC Bureau Conference of the Parties for the Americas Region (AMRO). She is also so embedded in the Panamanian establishment that her former husband was one of the closest advisers to notorious Panama dictator, Manuel Noriega (see below). 

Surprising as it is that she was appointed to the role, the perceived bias that acceptance of a Bloomberg award would suggest may not have worked out very well for the enemies of harm reduction. The investigation of Dr. Roa seems to have opened up a wider debate. 

All alternative nicotine products are currently prohibited in Panama but this is now being revisited. According to the gloriously-named Mr Cigarruista, of the Association for the Reduction of Harm from Smoking in Panama, a bill has been presented to the National Assembly that proposes regulating vaping products to replace the current ban. 

The November jamboree is fast approaching and delegates are starting to book their accommodation for a COP10 meeting which carries many threats for vaping and other harm reduction products. The WHO’s FCTC Secretariat has been working hard to guide delegations into agreeing decisions at COP10 to ban or heavily restrict reduced risk nicotine products all over the world. It will be somewhat embarrassing for the WHO if, at the same time, their host country is discussing proposals to implement common sense over vaping products and reverse prohibition.

How unfortunate that would be for the WHO. Our hearts bleed for them.

Where’s Bloomby? Check the atlas

You have to hand it to Bloomberg Philanthropies. They are very good at finding public servants willing to exchange their statutory obligation to be impartial for a pat on the back and a pretty bauble. Like the Where’s Wally books, you never know where they may turn up next.

The latest target of Bloomberg’s ongoing programme to influence government policies in low and middle income countries is Panama. Yes, the Panama where COP10 will be held later this year. That Panama. 

The country’s National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (ANTAI) has accepted a complaint against Dr. Reina Roa, Coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Commission of the Ministry of Health (MINSA).

The charge is that the Panamanian Coalition Against Tabaquismo (COPACET), of which she is founder, has accepted a Bloomberg Philanthropies Award for Global Tobacco Control as a reward for successfully designing public policies favoured by the world’s biggest privately-owned anti-harm reduction lobbyist.

Dr. Roa is now being investigated by Panamanian authorities for “administrative irregularities” over what is a clear conflict of interest in her role as an “independent” adviser to the Ministry of Health. For it is difficult to imagine Dr. Roa being particularly eager to present both sides of the debate on harm reduction to her government while being celebrated in this way, is it not?

For those who may believe they have read this story before, you may be thinking of The Philippines. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies were caught red-handed giving grants to the Philippines FDA to not only influence its future policy, but to physically draft and file a parliamentary bill to be presented to the country’s legislature.

Or perhaps you may be thinking of any number of other countries where Bloomberg front groups have been attempting to meddle in government policymaking, such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Ukraine, Bosnia, and Vietnam. Take your pick.

One must wonder why Bloomberg’s acolytes are going to such lengths to interfere in government affairs in so many countries, often putting the reputations of public officials at risk and leading them to break their constitutional and legal obligations. Is it not a waste of their time and resources if truth and objective science is on their side?

Or maybe, just maybe, this colonialist manipulation of smaller countries is precisely because Bloomberg Philanthropies are worried that the little guys on the world stage might see through the propaganda and act in the public health interests of their citizens, and that just would not do, especially in advance of COP10.

We trust that Dr. Roa will keep that award polished while she is being questioned on perceived lack of due impartiality by Panama’s authorities. In the meantime, we will watch out for the next far-flung government to be visited by Bloomby’s minions and their fistful of dollars.

We had a dream….

WHO loves harm reduction – but not for smokers

We had a dream… We had a dream about a comprehensive publication that would highlight best examples of risk reduction policies and approaches in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and how they could influence tobacco control.

In this dream about NCD  best-buys was this recently published WHO report on sodium, which does not call for a ban on salt, even though excessive salt intake causes raised blood pressure and increases risk of cardiovascular disease and is associated with 1.89 million deaths each year. This publication provides policymakers with science-based alternative actions that avoid a prohibitionist approach.

There was another new WHO report in our dream. This one is about road safety. Around 1.3 million people die and millions more are injured or disabled because of road traffic accidents every year. Instead of banning cars, motorcycles, buses, and other vehicles, WHO with partners is calling to adopt policies aiming at increasing use of seatbelts and child restraints. WHO is calling for harm reduction, in other words. In the publication they reminded us of other measures aimed at reducing risks,  such as the introduction of speed limits, the creation of safer infrastructure, the enforcement of limits on blood alcohol concentration while driving, and improvements in vehicle safety.

Then our imagination, boosted by R.E.M., moved to publications that would encourage people to drop the most toxic risk factors and replace them with better alternatives. And then this WHO report on the replacement of trans-fatty acids with healthier oils and fats appeared. This provides guidance on finding the best replacement oils for industrially produced Trans Fatty Acids, and on designing and implementing strategies to promote the use of alternatives.

And then we were rudely awakened by a Twitter notification from the FCTC account inviting us to a launch of their new publication. And the spell was broken. Because we already know that we cannot expect a similar harm reduction approach when it comes to tobacco. Yet again, we will hear whining that there are no safer alternatives to smoking, and that tobacco and nicotine products should be banned. Just not the cigarettes.

Why can’t WHO just look at their own examples, as in our dream, and see that their stubborn stance on tobacco just doesn’t make sense?

In the words of Martin Luther King “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.

Where are the FCTC Bureau meeting minutes?

It seems that the long march towards a triumphant COP10 later this year must surely have encountered a hitch. The second meeting of the FCTC Bureau took place at the end of November 2022, but here we are at the start of March and the minutes of their last meeting have still not been published. Has their typewriter broken?

The role of the Bureau is to make proposals which are then circulated to regional coordinators. Considering the next Bureau meeting is scheduled for 27-28 March, it does not leave much time to enable the regions to digest what has gone before.

Items at the November meeting would have likely included discussions about the provisional COP10 agenda, requests from parties for elements to be included and maybe details for delegates of the hosting arrangements in Panama. Quite important information.

It is difficult to believe that the regions will not be eager to learn about these matters, so the delay is inconvenient, to say the least.

Or is it that the Bureau is communicating with regions behind the scenes and are reluctant to publish their minutes for the public to see just yet?

We look forward to the typewriter engineers being available to fix this problem soon, and look forward to the belated publication of the Bureau minutes so that the famous WHO FCTC reputation for openness and transparency is protected.

Key milestones for COP10

The Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be held in Panama from 20 – 25 November.

Below we provide a graphic of the key milestones leading up to COP10, and opportunities for engagement.

A note on the deferred agenda items: Due to COP9 being held virtually, it was decided that substantive discussions of and decisions on several items on the agenda would be deferred until COP10. Two of the items which were deferred were item 4.1; “Implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC (Regulation of contents and disclosure of tobacco products: reports by the expert group, and by WHO and the Convention Secretariat),and item 4.2; “Novel and emerging tobacco products”.

Access the pdf version here.

Is the FCTC’s website now a Bloomboard?

Is the FCTC’s website now a Bloomboard?

Yet another day, yet another connection of Bloomberg with the Secretariat of the Framework Convention. Surprisingly, (or maybe at this point we should get rid of any illusions that they do not serve as a lobbying company for Mr. Bloomberg) the official FCTC website provides information about the possibility to apply for Bloomberg-funded grants (Round 33 of the Bloomberg Initiative To Reduce Tobacco Use Grants Program | WHO FCTC).

The announcement board where the information on grants can be found, serves as a newsfeed of “events and initiatives organized by the Convention Secretariat and/or its partners”. Has Bloomberg recently become an official partner of the FCTC? Let’s have a look: Donors and partners (who.int). Nope. Maybe Bloomberg Philanthropies has official COP Observer status? Check it out: Nongovernmental organizations accredited as observers to the COP (who.int). No, still not the case.

We can simply conclude that the website for the international Treaty, legally-binding for its signatories, managed by the FCTC Secretariat, serves as a billboard Bloomboard for privately funded grants. So, instead of spending its time and money, derived from the assessed contributions of the Parties (all sovereign states) the Secretariat is now offering its supporting hand to a wealthy private fund.

Of course, another issue is the added value of such projects. Does anyone expect that their results will in any manner differ from the official line of the Secretariat and friendly organisations? An official line which is decidedly against Tobacco Harm Reduction?

All in all, expectation is the mother of all frustration, so why worry?

Bloomberg tentacles tighten around WHO FCTC

Announced recently is the new Global Tobacco Control Progress Hub. Bloomberg Philanthropies is the sole funder and the steering committee is populated by Bloomberg grantees. The Hub is described as an “ambitious new interactive data platform for the tobacco control community”. It will use 12 years worth of data collected by WHO and FCTC.

These unaccountable NGO’s will be measuring the progress of the sovereign nations that are the Parties.

By the tobacco control echo chamber, for the tobacco control echo chamber.

The hub has been developed by ASH Canada. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) watchers will know that after a promising start, where it looked as though Canada might enact some evidence based legislation around vaping, the nation now performs very poorly on THR. We can only speculate whether ASH Canada receives Bloomberg money, the website is silent on funding.

But ASH Canada is not the only organisation involved.

Bloomberg bingo?

There’s a steering committee guiding the progress of the Hub – something which was not agreed or decided at the last COP. The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC is involved. The other organisations that are part of this steering committee are: ACT Promocao da Saude (Brazil), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CDC Foundation, Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Shahid Begeshti University of Medical Sciences (Tehran), ThinkTank Research Center for Health Development (Beijing), University of Illinois at Chicago, Vital Strategies, Voluntary Health Association of India and the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative.

Are all of these organisations receiving Bloombucks? Sadly we lack the resources to find out, but do leave a comment, if you know the answer.

Given the funding and organisations involved in the Hub, we don’t expect the successes of vaping and other THR products to be celebrated on the platform. Availability and adoption of THR products will likely be included as negative metrics. However, as there’s so little information to go on – plus ça change plus c’est la même chose! – we hope to be wrong.

If you want to find out more, you can register for one of the webinars on 29 November. However, unless you are in the cosy tobacco control club you are unlikely to get in – so why not console yourself by watching the World Cup instead.

Sources:
Announcing the Global Tobacco Control Progress Hub
https://www.globaltobaccocontrol.org/en/announcing-global-tobacco-control-progress-hub

Global Progress Hub Coming Soon
https://www.globaltobaccocontrol.org/en/announcing-global-tobacco-control-progress-hub

The FCTC is no longer fit for purpose, say independent experts.

As well as reporting the bad news and awful developments, we also try to bring you encouraging news and reasoned views! In response to an article in the Lancet that argues tobacco control is “far from the finish line,” although its measures had an impact worldwide in deterring people from smoking, the independent experts Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita state that “tobacco control is not working for most of the world”. It’s worth noting that both have previously had senior roles at WHO: Ruth Bonita as a former director of the WHO Department of NCD surveillance, and Robert Beaglehole as a former director of the WHO Department of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

In their article, Beaglehole and Bonita report what many in tobacco control think, but only a few will say:

“The FCTC is no longer fit for purpose, especially for low-income countries. Neither WHO nor the FCTC are grounded in the latest evidence on the role of innovative nicotine delivery devices in assisting the transition from cigarettes to much less harmful products.”

Interesting to see how the authors explained why the FCTC is not making progress at the expected pace by providing a simple answer: the missing strategy in WHO and FCTC policies is harm reduction. This might not be news for most of us, but we will repeat it as many times as possible – apparently there are some people who still do not get it or do not want to get it.

Independent research launched at #GFN22 by Dr Lars Ramström shows the WHO’s tobacco control measures, known as MPOWER, are not reducing tobacco-related mortality in Europe. The study reveals that switching from smoking to Swedish-style snus, a safer nicotine product, is a more effective strategy to reduce tobacco-related deaths.

Dr Ramström’s work shows that the WHO must embrace tobacco harm reduction as part of its global tobacco control response by supporting the use of safer nicotine products to quit smoking.

This all accords with the findings of this 2019 study from Hoffman et al, which found “no evidence to indicate that global progress in reducing cigarette consumption has been accelerated by the FCTC treaty mechanism.”

Impact of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on global cigarette consumption: quasi-experimental evaluations using interrupted time series analysis and in-sample forecast event modelling
BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2287 (Published 19 June 2019)

The last word here goes to Beaglehole and Bonita:

“most people smoke because they are dependent on nicotine. Tobacco harm reduction reduces harm caused by burnt tobacco by replacing cigarettes with much less harmful ways of delivering nicotine; these alternatives have great potential to disrupt the cigarette industry.”

Watch Dr Lars Ramström launching his research here:

Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Knowledge hub surprise!

The term “multilateral” describes the very essence of international treaties and agreements between countries around the world. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and COP are no exception and, accordingly, all their discussions and decisions should involve all parties – 182 countries, to be more precise.

On July 5th, the FCTC Secretariat surprised COP watchers by announcing the establishment of a Knowledge Hub, in partnership with Santé Publique France, for education, communication, training and public awareness in tobacco control. This raises some questions! Did the Parties request the establishment of this new Knowledge Hub? Was this discussed at COP9, or at previous COP sessions? Does the FCTC Secretariat have the competence to decide unilaterally when a new KH is needed or with whom it is established – particularly when funding will presumably come from the Parties’ contributions to the FCTC? Was this the wish or commitment of a single Party/Country and is that enough justification to create a new KH? Is this multilateralism?

Once again, the answer to all these questions is NO. In the press release, the FCTC Secretariat vaguely explains that the establishment of this Knowledge Hub “concretizes France’s commitment” to fight against tobacco at the international level. 182 Parties to the FCTC have made this same commitment – but will they all get a Knowledge Hub?

The creation of the KH is also shocking in that it demonstrates that the FCTC Secretariat is using COP to act arbitrarily. The announcement does not accord with the decision taken at COP9 to establish a new Knowledge Hub only upon request (page 43). It also disregards the opinion of one Party that the priority should be a new KH on product regulation (page 15).

FCTC Secretariat is using COP as a facade to act arbitrarily and to take unilateral decisions, without seeking the approval of the Parties.

This unilateral and secretive agreement (publicly announced as a Memorandum of Understanding) also poses questions on how the FCTC is being influenced and driven by the wealthiest countries, to the potential disadvantage of the poorer ones.

Finally, to remind you why this is deeply wrong, we invite you to have a look at the FCTC Secretariat competences, which are clearly very limited and do not authorise the Secretariat to sign agreements with national government agencies, such as Santé Publique France.

We expect the FCTC Parties are also surprised and concerned about this sudden announcement, and that they too will continue to question whether the FCTC is a truly multilateral treaty.

Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Intersessional developments – the secrecy continues

We are now in the intersessional period leading up to COP10 and some developments are worth noting. You might recall that elections of the Bureau for COP10 were held during COP9 last year, with Eswatini becoming Chair and Oman, Netherlands, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, and Australia filling the other committee places. The FCTC website reports that this new Bureau met for the first time during the last week of April. What happened there is somewhat of a mystery. What was discussed? What was agreed? Has any information been shared with the Parties? The answer is we just don’t know. This was yet another secret meeting, driven by the FCTC Secretariat and a cherry-picked group of countries.

The next Bureau meeting is scheduled for the autumn – will we have the same uncanny sensation of being left in the dark after that one too?

Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Where are the missing verbatim #COP9 reports?

It has been some time since we reported news on #FCTCCOP, but has it been quiet for the FCTC Secretariat?

Silence can mean things are being quietly cooked and indeed, we are back here to report on developments following last year’s secretive COP9. Eventually – almost five months after the meeting – the FCTC Secretariat published the final report of the COP9. The sixty-eight page report reaffirmed the decision taken pre COP that “substantive discussions of and decisions” on some of the agenda items (including articles 9 and 10 and “novel” products) are deferred to COP10, due to be held in Panama in 2023.

However, it is evident there is a lot more in the report than was discussed during the meeting. In particular, FCTC Secretariat has included some suggestions on the regulation of “novel” products – such as the consideration of expanding the definition of “tobacco products” in the Convention to include novel products (page 12) – even though Parties had decided to defer those discussions to COP10.

Last but not least, even the head of the FCTC Secretariat recognised that some discussions literally got lost in translation during COP9 (here). Is this why the verbatim records of the plenary meetings have not been published, as they usually are?

In addition to being shut out from attending the meeting, it seems we are not permitted to know what was said or discussed.

Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

WHO is invited to the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum?

WHO cherry-picks countries to discuss the future of tobacco control in (another) secret meeting

Have you heard of the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum – no? Nor had we. Even more secret than COP, it’s another WHO meeting organised behind closed doors. GTRF makes Davos look positively transparent.

Here are the results of our search for GTRF on the WHO website:

It is only thanks to UK MP Adam Affriyie’s determination to uncover information about the secretive GTRF that we even know the dates of last year’s meeting.  You can see his persistent Parliamentary questioning here.

Here is the reply from Jo Churchill (then a UK health minister) :

The Fifth meeting of Global Tobacco Regulators Forum (GTRF) took place virtually from 7 to 9 July. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) No Tobacco Unit in the Health Promotion Department hosts the GTRF meetings. Papers for the meetings are not publicly available from the WHO.

Officials from the Department’s tobacco control policy team attended to represent the United Kingdom as leads and experts in tobacco control policy. This year’s meeting was attended by civil servants from the Tobacco Control team. Officials will report back to senior officials and Ministers with any key outcomes. The Department holds notes on previous GTRF forums.

Officials updated the GTRF on the UK’s tobacco control work and evidence-based position on harm reduction alternatives to tobacco, such as e-cigarettes. We also presented global evidence about harm reduction alternatives, and tackle any misinformation. We recognise that they play a vital role in helping smokers to quit and we will continue to advocate for their use as part of a comprehensive approach.

Global Tobacco Regulators Forum Question for Department of Health and Social Care
UIN 27101, tabled on 5 July 2021 https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-07-05/27101/

A little more light is shed in this extract from Clive Bates’ blog, The Counterfactual:  

Prohibitionists at work: how the WHO damages public health through hostility to tobacco harm reduction

Although not a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the US Federal and Drugs Administration (FDA) has been paying for the GTRF meetings, through two five-year (2013-2018 and 2018-2023) agreements,  totalling over $7 million. 

As we mentioned above, questions have been raised in the UK about these meetings. We have learned that Australia, Canada, France, India,  and Singapore are also said to attend the meetings.

But, what of the remaining countries of the 182 which have ratified FCTC?

As the extract from Clive Bates’ article states, WHO uses GTRF to influence regulators, via the decisions of the 182 Parties to the FCTC.  

The last WHO Study Group Report (TobReg) (LINK) included a reference to a background paper on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco prepared by GTRF , without providing any background on who mandated the report, nor on which countries or experts had been consulted. 

The WHO and FCTC keep working behind closed doors.  FCTC COP excludes key stakeholders, such as nicotine users, the media, tobacco farmers and industry.  Even more shocking is this discovery that the GTRF, which influences COP, may exclude sovereign nations who are signatories to the FCTC.  

As the last Global Tobacco Regulators Forum was held in July last year,  we think the 2022 meeting must coming up soon.

We will bring you more IF we can find it.   If you have any information, leave a comment or use our Contact Us form

#WNTD

#WorldNoTobaccoDay

#THRworks

#COP10 is here!

Here is COPWATCH’s guide for COP10 week. Check back as the week goes on, we are planning to publish regular COP Live updates. Those will be announced via our Twitter/X account: @FCTCcopwatch 

#COP10 is on from Monday 5 February to Saturday 10 February The official event takes place in the Panama Convention Center. There are also unofficial events taking place, notably the Good COP event. Here we give you information about the official and unofficial events.  

Anyone can get involved in #COP10 on social media – the official hashtag is #COP10FCTC

If you are not attending the official event you might still want to read the Information kit for delegates to the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Intended for delegates new to FCTC COP, it is clearly written and informative about some of the procedures.  

Also, Clive Bates has produced this: FCTC COP-10 – a survival guide for delegates 

And, GSTHR produced this overview of COP: The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP): an explainer (updated April 2023)

Timetable

Here are the ‘working hours’ for COP10


Taken from Guide for Participants, FCTC/COP/10/DIV/2/Rev.1

What sessions will be livestreamed? 
You probably know that FCTC COP is secretive and closed. So, most of the action takes place away from the public gaze.  However, sessions at the beginning and end are expected to be livestreamed. This provisional agenda (FCTC/COP/10/1) uses asterisks ( * ) to mark which sessions the Bureau recommends should be livestreamed:


Asterisks in the provisional agenda mark which sessions the Bureau proposes should be livestreamed, in the opening session.

The graphic below has appeared on the COP10 homepage. We assume that clicking on it on the page will take you to the live streamed sessions:

The COP10 agenda 
One of the first tasks of COP will be to adopt the agenda. Here is the Provisional agenda annotated (FCTC/COP/10/1), which is listed on the Documentation – Main documents page

Good to read alongside the agenda…
Clive Bates’ ‘Commentary on the Annotated Agenda’
COPWATCH has critiqued several of the official COP10 documents, see our directory of COP10 articles for those.
GSTHR: The FCTC COP10 Agenda and supporting documents: implications for the future of tobacco harm reduction

COP side events
The official COP side events and who is organising them are listed here:
https://fctc.who.int/publications/m/item/cop10-side-events

Official journal
Journals are published daily, here:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10/Journals/index.html
The Preliminary journal is already available:
https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Journals/fctc-cop10-preliminary-journal-en.pdf

GATC COP bulletins
The Global Alliance for Tobacco Control (formerly the Framework Convention Alliance) will be putting out daily bulletins. Although not an official record, the GATC is very much on the inside, so those bulletins will be worth reading. They are again planning to dish out daily Orchid and Ashtray (stigmatising, much?!) awards. Many commentators view those as intended to shame Parties to fall in line with what the Secretariat wants.   

Copwatch was very proud to get an award at COP9 – admittedly it wasn’t given to us by the FCA – maybe this time? https://tobaccoreporter.com/2021/11/21/activists-hand-out-good-cop-bad-cop-awards/

Unofficial events
TPA’s GOOD COP/BAD COP is on from Monday 5 – Friday 9 February


From the organisers:

“The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is organizing a rapid response and fact checking conference in Panama City, Panama as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meets for their biennial Conference of the Parties (Bad COP) to discuss tobacco-related issues. TPA’s event “Conference of the People (Good COP)” will bring in experts and consumers, often ignored by WHO, to be heard during the discussion of tobacco and tobacco harm reduction.”

In contrast to FCTC COP10, all the Good COP sessions will be livestreamed and will feature experts in the field of tobacco harm reduction.  

The agenda is here – but it is subject to change, as the organisers will be responding to news coming out of COP.  

 

GOOD COP BAD COP will be livestreaming on the TPA’s YouTube and posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X

Also, Brent Stafford at RegWatch will be doing a live broadcast at the end of each day (4pmET) on his channel and streamed on Twitter/X

You can sign up to TPA’s daily digest email here:
https://mailchi.mp/90773cc4ebb2/good-cop-daily-digest

Another unofficial event:
Segundo Foro Latinoamericano Nicotina y Reducción de Riesgo (Second Latin American Nicotine and Risk Reduction Forum) Tuesday 6 February.

Organised by Rauder this takes place at Hotel Las Américas Golden Tower Panama. You can sign up via Eventbrite here

That’s all for now! Follow us and #COP10FCTC on Twitter/X to join in the #COP10 conversation and follow the developments throughout the week. Our COP Live updates will appear here.

#COP10 – full steam ahead

The propaganda assault on safer nicotine products and those who advocate for them is at fever pitch.  Bloomberg has poured a lot of money – ‘Bloombucks’ – into attacking tobacco harm reduction and journalists for hire are working overtime to smear anyone who speaks up for it. This media manipulation will be familiar to advocates but still raises eyebrows – it’s arrant hypocrisy when the Bloomberg funded media attacks advocates for perceived conflicts of interest.    

Read on for more COP10 news since our last update.

BAN BAN BAN!  🔨

WHO is going further than ever in recommending that countries ban safer alternatives to smoking. A press release published on 14 December recommends that: 

‘Any government pursuing a smoking cessation strategy using e-cigarettes should control the conditions under which the products are accessed to ensure appropriate clinical conditions and regulate the products as medicines’

Vapes are effective because they are consumer products; that is fundamental to their success in helping people to quit smoking. We don’t know of any medicinally licensed vaping products. So WHO is now calling for countries who have legalised vapes to ban them.  

Check out too what Rüdiger Krech, WHO’s Director for Health Promotion said on 16 January in a press briefing – watch here from 22.50 in: 
https://webtv.un.org/en/asset/k1f/k1fpinodpy

Here’s a clip:

And, TikTok has this video with Krech saying it’s good news that 1.25 billion people still smoke. The quiet bit said out loud? 

Happily, some of WHO’s disinformation is being challenged, at least one of their tweets has earned a Community Note. 

More trouble in Panama over the $5million hosting of COP10 🍿

Not only is there dissatisfaction over the Panama government spending $5million on the contract, a complaint has been filed over how the contract was awarded.  It has been revealed that the contract was not put out to tender and there is now an official complaint.   Read more on these links:

Cuestionan contrato directo de $5 millones para eventos sobre tabaco (They question a $5 million direct contract for tobacco events – Google translate)
https://www.critica.com.pa/nacional/cuestionan-contrato-directo-de-5-millones-para-eventos-sobre-tabaco-664394

Panamá no sale de un escándalo para caer en otro (Panama does not emerge from one scandal to fall into another – Google translate)
https://www.laverdadpa.com/panama-no-sale-de-un-escandalo-para-caer-en-otro/

We have reported several times on the controversies surrounding Panama’s hosting of COP10, see our COP10 articles list if you are interested in reading more. 

And, Panama’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) recently put out a press release stating that ‘delegates from 183 countries are expected, with about 1,900 people (1,200 for the COP and 700 for the MOP)’.  

Official documents

Participants list

Back to Bloomberg – do check out the participants list, published after the de minimis session. There’ll be a big Copwatch thumbs up👍🏽for anyone who can identify how many of the Observers are funded by Bloomberg – we can see it’s a lot but we don’t have time to research the full list. In contrast, not one organisation which speaks on behalf of people who use nicotine has been granted observer status. And, we are hearing that applications from the general public to attend the COP open sessions are being rejected, including from tobacco growers in Brazil:

‘In October, the Minister of Agriculture, Carlow Fávaro (PSD), had confirmed to parliamentarians that the Brazilian government would grant access to the event to representatives of the population. However, those who registered on the official website of the World Health Organization had their application rejected without official justification’. (Google translate)

See: Deputies are denied registrations for COP10: “We need a voice in decisions”
https://www.gaz.com.br/deputados-tem-inscricoes-negadas-para-cop10-precisamos-de-voz-nas-decisoes/

What makes it even worse is that WHO is evidently familiar with the concept that those most affected should be involved in decisions which affect them. In 2021 they produced a manual entitled ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’  #NoExcuse 

Information kit for delegates
The Secretariat has produced this information kit for delegates: https://fctc.who.int/publications/i/item/information-kit-for-delegates-to-the-conference-of-the-parties-to-the-who-framework-convention-on-tobacco-control

Delegates should also read our Alternative reading list for #COP10 delegates

And, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that Copwatch has delved into lots of the COP10 official documents over the past few months, check out our article list here:
COPWATCH #COP10 articles

UK Parliament debate

Andrew Lewer MP moved the motion on COP10 to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in a backbench debate on 18 January. The video is here and the Hansard (transcript) is here.

All MPs speaking called for a minister to attend as part of the UK COP delegation. Many MPs were concerned that the UK COP delegation might agree with policies which contradict domestic ones.

“In Panama, I want to hear the Minister using their power and the UK’s authority to stand up for solutions that work. I want the Government to stand by these arguments. NHS policy papers, the Khan review and ASH show that allowing people to make smaller changes leads to longer-term change. If we use our position as one of the FCTC’s largest financial contributors, our voice should be heard. I urge the Government to lead, and the Minister for Primary Care and Public Health to join COP10 as part of our delegation.”
Virendra Sharma MP

For more see: Sticking to its Guns, Tobacco Reporter

Media is warned off COPWATCH

It was brought to our attention that COPWATCH was mentioned in the ‘Media workshop in lead up to global tobacco treaty intergovernmental negotiations (COP10/MOP3)’, held on 23 January. Apparently it was said that although there is no proof that the tobacco industry funds us, it is strange that we go along with what the tobacco industry is doing.  

We would like to put the record straight. No one funds COPWATCH. We are part of the proud global movement of grass roots consumers advocating for people who smoke to have access to products which can improve their lives. That movement has had many successes worldwide in resisting over regulation which would take life saving products away from the people who need them. We have been advocating for safer nicotine products for a long time, long before any of the tobacco industry. In fact, some of the tobacco industry is just saying what we said first. And, by no means is all of the industry pro tobacco harm reduction – just look at China Tobacco. 

That’s all for now. We’ll leave you with some reading – an excellent letter from the Association of Vapers India, calling upon their delegation to use COP to learn from the positive experiences of nations which are open to tobacco harm reduction: 

https://twitter.com/vapeindia/status/1750156566031204532/photo/1

#COP10 Catch Up

Quite a bit happened with COP10 since we last posted.  Here we bring you up to speed:  

COP OFF 
Copwatch had been reporting since April that there was a problem with the contract to put on COP10,  this is from our article of 7 November:

“The upshot is that, with less than 2 weeks to go, the WHO has booked a convention centre in which to hold COP10 but has no-one to organise it. Delegates may be arriving in Panama City all dressed up but with nowhere to go.” Even bigger big trouble in little Panama

COP OUT
So, it came as no surprise to us when on 9 November it was announced that COP10 would be postponed. The Secretariat’s press release stated that the postponement was at the request of Panama and “due to the current security situation in Panama”. However, Copwatchers will find it hard to believe that the problems with the COP10 contract, and the whiff of corruption around it, had nothing to do with the decision.   See Vaping Today’s recent article, here, for an in depth analysis of the various issues.  

COP ON
A ‘de minimis’ virtual session was held on 23 November.  The main agenda item addressed the need to raise money to fund the resumed in person COP10  [you’ll remember that the Panama government had refused the consortium planning COP an extra $2 million, not long before the postponement was announced].   This Decision document shows how the $1.1m needed to finance the rescheduling will be raised:   https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Decisions/fctc-cop-10-3-en.pdf

The Journal for the de minimis session is thin, but it does give these ‘official’ hashtags for COP10: #COP10FCTC and #COP10  (both hashtags are currently dominated by consumer advocates for tobacco harm reduction). 

A few days later – the money now being in place – the new dates for the in person COP10 in Panama were announcedMonday, 5 February to Saturday, 10 February 2024 

Delegates list
A huge bonus for those who appreciate transparency (not you, FCTC Secretariat) is that the delegates list for the de minimis session had to be published: 

https://storage.googleapis.com/who-fctc-cop10-source/Additional%20documents%20-%20Diverse/fctc-cop10-div-1-en.pdf

Usually we have to wait until after COP to see who the delegates are – despite them all being funded out of the public purse! Publishing the list in advance means that delegates can be contacted by the actual public.  It offers a rare opportunity for those who are most affected by the decisions taken at FCTC COP to have a say.  So, get writing, people!