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

FCTC Secretariat uses Australian propaganda to influence COP NGO observers

Following on from our last post highlighting how the WHO has been cherry-picking countries to discuss the future of tobacco control in a secret meeting, we now find the anti-smoking anti-nicotine arm of the WHO cherry-picking information to manipulate the NGO observers to the COP. 

Last week,the FCTC Secretariat sent out the email below emphasising a highly dubious review by the Australian National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH).


Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 7:15 PM
Subject: Research on e-cigarette use and public health assessment in Australia
To:

Dear NGOs observers to the COP,

The Convention Secretariat and WHO has recently received the visit of Professor Emily Banks, one of Australia’s leading researchers in e-cigarettes and tobacco control. Professor Banks is the Head of the Centre for Public Health Data and Policy, at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), based at the Australian National University. We would like to share with you information on the last research project she has led in Australia.

 The NCEPH conducted a review of the health outcomes in relation to e-cigarette use and a public health assessment of e-cigarettes for Australia, as commissioned by the Australian Department of Health on 27 February 2019. This global systematic review is the most comprehensive review of vaping-related health impacts to date.

 To date, at least 32 countries ban the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes, 79 countries – including Australia – allow them to be sold while fully or partially regulating them and the remaining 84 countries do not regulate them at all. In Australia, nicotine e-cigarettes are legal only on prescription, for the purpose of smoking cessation.

 In Australia, however, as of 2019, the majority of e-cigarette use is not for smoking cessation, particularly at young ages.

 The systematic review of e-cigarettes and health outcomes (Review) published by NCEPH on 7 April 2022 is one of a series of reports produced as part of this project. The Review concludes that:

  • There is strong or conclusive evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes can be harmful to health and uncertainty regarding their impacts on a range of important health and disease outcomes.
  • The use of nicotine e-cigarettes increases the risk of a range of adverse health outcomes, including: poisoning; toxicity from inhalation (such as seizures); addiction; trauma and burns; lung injury; and smoking uptake, particularly in youth.
  • Nicotine e-cigarettes are highly addictive, underpinning increasing and widespread use among children and adolescents in many settings.
  • The most common pattern of e-cigarette use is dual e-cigarette use and tobacco smoking, which is generally considered an adverse outcome.
  • There is strong evidence that non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to go on to smoke combustible tobacco cigarettes as non-smokers who do not use e-cigarettes, supportive of a “gateway” effect.
  • There is limited evidence of efficacy of freebase nicotine e-cigarettes as an aid to smoking cessation in the clinical setting.

 The summary brief of the review can be found through this link and the full global systematic review is available here. Additional information about the project and resources from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health are available in this website.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Best regards,
Secretariat of the WHO FCTC


The email repeats conclusions of the review without any objective assessment of the evidence behind them. However, Dr Colin Mendelsohn – member of the Australian Smoking Cessation Guideline Expert Advisory Group who has worked in tobacco treatment for 35 years – has cast a more critical eye on the claims and has noted many debatable, or even false, assertions. 

The review claims that there is “conclusive evidence that the use of e-cigarettes can cause respiratory disease (EVALI) among smokers” which is simply not true. Conversely, it declares that there is “limited evidence of efficacy of freebase nicotine e-cigarettes as an aid to smoking cessation” despite the Cochrane living review – the highest quality of scientific evidence – finding that vaping is twice as effective as using NRT for smoking cessation.

The review also carefully picks research suggesting that vaping leads youth to smoking, ignoring real world evidence that the opposite is true. In all states where vaping has been able to compete with combustible products, youth smoking rates have declined considerably since vaping products have been available and are at historically low levels in the UK and USA. Perhaps the FCTC is not aware of what is happening in the world, which would be quite a failing for a global institution, if true. 

One wonders why, if Colin Mendelsohn can find so many flaws in the NCEPH evidence, the FCTC Secretariat is incapable of doing the same. Or, if they have done, why the FCTC Secretariat is enthusiastically emphasising the review without a note of caution. 

Forgive us for being cynical, but we doubt the FCTC Secretariat sends similar emails to highlight research which shows vaping in a positive light. 

To remind you why this is deeply wrong from the Secretariat, please revisit one of our earlier posts – What’s wrong with FCTC COP? The Secretariat should be impartial, but behaviour such as this reveals that it is working to manipulate the Parties according to its own agenda: 

It is therefore irresponsible, and arguably ethically wrong, to foment doubt on vaping amongst NGOs and Observers via an official email, without balancing the clearly biased Australian review with the increasingly weighty body of evidence which points to major public health benefits in countries where vaping is leading to impressive declines in smoking. 

The FCTC treaty preamble defines its purpose as being to “improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke”. Smoke, not nicotine. It seems that the Secretariat has forgotten that.

#COP9 LIVE 12 November 2021 #COP9news #THRworks

COPWATCH LIVE’S FINAL #COP9 UPDATE

A very special event happened today, COP9 livestreamed its final session! The public was afforded a rare glimpse into the secret meeting that we are not allowed to attend. All decisions had already been made by then, of course.

The main announcement was that the next COP meeting will take place in Panama in 2023. The Panamanian Minister for Health delivered a speech while a video played showing some of the sights of the country. 


Panama City via unsplash, image credit Yosi Bitran @ybitran

Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo was re-elected as Head of the FCTC Secretariat and gave a speech which acknowledged that COP9 had experienced many technical issues, saying that sometimes discussions literally got lost in translation. She also spoke about the exciting possibilities for the FCTC now they are able to “invite investors” to help with their funding. She boasted that COP9 had allowed journalists “from around the world” to sit in on their meetings, something that should really go without saying. For the FCTC, it seems transparency is a privilege to be granted rather than a right. It was interesting that she also affirmed that it is the parties who make the decisions.

The EU spokesperson announced that the Italian Ministry of Health is donating 130k euros to fund work into the Expert Group on Articles 9 &10 and also for the knowledge hubs.  

Elections were held for officials to serve up to COP10, with Eswatini made Chair and Oman, Netherlands, Uruguay, Sri Lanka and Australia filling the other committee places. 

All that is left for this COP is for the FCTC to hold a press conference which we understand will take place later today, presumably secretly and in front of the accredited journalists in their bedrooms with their pyjamas on. Published articles are still as rare as hens’ teeth. 

Keep watching the main documents page.  And, if time permits we will write a wrap up article, summarising the decisions, after those have been published.  

Huge applause to the THR community – to everyone who tweeted, commented, cared about the potential impact of COP9 on human beings – despite us having the door slammed shut in our faces.

A special thanks must go to sCOPe, for streaming brilliant content and ensuring the consumer voice is heard.  

We’ll leave you with some of our favourite tweets.  COPWATCH is now off to the pub.

DAY 5 UPDATE #1

Good morning COP WATCHERS.  We are now into what we hope is the last day of COP9. 

FCTC has recently tweeted to announce it’s the last day and to promise some live streaming

According to the 5th Journal, the 7th plenary this morning will see the adoption of the revised “Declaration on WHO FCTC and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic” (the Iran declaration – see our update from yesterday for more on that).  This is followed by item 7, date and place of COP10 (we are guessing it won’t be the Philippines), then item 8 sees the election of the of the President and the Vice-Presidents of COP,  item 9 is the adoption of the provisional report of COP9, item 10 is the closure of the session.  

The usual regional and committee meetings are also taking place today. 

New documents:  the 3rd report from Committee B has been published (LINK);  it seems that Adriana Blanco Marquizo will get re-elected as head of the convention secretariat.

The FCA’s bulletin propaganda sheet has excelled itself this morning by giving its Orchid award to Iran, a country roundly condemned for human rights abuses.  This is reminiscent of the time the WHO made Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador.  A reminder, should we need it,  that this tobacco control bubble is far removed from the real world, despite being set up to tackle real world problems.  

The Philippines has been awarded it’s THIRD ashtray award by the FCA.  Yesterday we reported that the Philippines delegation is being lauded at home for its work at COP9, yet the FCA continues to brief against it. We are reminded that there is currently an investigation in the Philippines into foreign interference (from Bloomberg funded groups) into domestic policy. 

Yesterday we reported that the FCTC official Twitter account had deleted a tweet declaring that Parties are sovereign.  We were pleased to see that tweet has now been sent out again. 

We wondered why this basic information was deleted considering it was not at all controversial. We are glad that the FCTC has now confirmed it is still the case that parties are sovereign at FCTC COP.

#COP9FCTC LIVE 11 November 2021 #COP9news #THRworks

DAY 4 UPDATE #2

It has been a quiet afternoon for watching COP, with little news emanating from the black hole. We can only hope that they got through the main items on the agenda and are on track to tie everything up tomorrow. 

There has, however, been a backlash from the Philippines about the two “dirty ashtray” awards the Framework Convention Alliance handed the country in its bulletins this week. The Philippines Department of Health objected to the video statement made by the lead of its delegation, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, but Locsin has had forthright backing from his government in two articles published today.

The Inquirer reported that “Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano and Surigao del Norte, 2nd District Rep. Ace Barbers … lashed out at “extremist critics” of Locsin and his team for their disrespect of our country’s sovereignty.”, the high-ranking officials went on to say “We support the Philippine delegation to the WHO FCTC ninth Conference of the Parties headed by Sec. Locsin for pushing for an inclusive and participative decision making in crafting global policy recommendations. Tobacco control approach cannot be one-dimensional.”

The Manila Bulletin covered the story too, quoting Savellano further, “We support and commend Sec. Locsin for safeguarding the rights and welfare of all stakeholders and carrying the Philippines’ position to adopt a balanced and evidence-based regulations in tobacco control”.

Peter Dator of consumer association, Vapers Philippines, sent a supportive message to the Philippine delegation, which was first shown on sCOPe

It was curious to discover that the FCTC had deleted a tweet posted on November 8th stating that it is the Parties to the Conference which are the governing body of the FCTC. As the tweet states, this is basic information on the treaty, so it is puzzling why it was removed. Is there any reason why this is no longer the case? 

The tweet can also be seen on WayBackMachine, here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20211108142545/https://twitter.com/FCTCofficial/status/1457715451597893641

On a matter of housekeeping, links for the FCA daily bulletins have moved, so we have changed them in our COPWATCH live articles. Each bulletin is provided in PDF format which can be saved locally should you wish to ensure they do not get lost again. We do.

Before we show you our favourite tweets of the day, it has been encouraging to see the conference hashtags dominated by an eclectic mix of pro THR tweets. #COP9 and #COP9FCTC are overwhelmingly supportive of the consumer position, and it is interesting to note that even FCTC does not use the official #COP9FCTC tag which they have been urging on delegates throughout the conference via the daily journals. Lately, the FCTC account seems to have abandoned the hashtags it previously promoted.  

Our favourite tweets:

Now you’ve read this, do go and catch some more of the fantastic sCOPe streaming, on YouTube here

See you tomorrow for what we hope is the final day of COP9.

DAY 4 UPDATE #1

Good morning.  Day 4 of COP has begun.  From Journal 4 and the FCA bulletin we learn that the morning’s business is regional meetings, followed by the Committee B’s Fifth Committee meeting and then the Fifth plenary. There are new additions to the main documents page, the First report of Committee A (decision on NGO’s maintaining their observer status) and the Second report of Committee B (deals with the investment fund, do see our update from last night for discussion of their first report).  Today should see a decision on who is to host COP10 (it will not held in Geneva).  Of course, there is no publicly available information on which parties have applied for the task (as if taxpayers would have any interest in that!). 

As seems to be customary, the FCA bulletin is giving more information than is in the official documents (the FCA is just a NGO, with no formal powers).  

Yesterday the Iranian president of COP invited the Iranian delegation to consider the draft declaration on WHO FCTC and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Following an invitation from the President, the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran introduced the draft declaration and comments were invited from the floor.  Iran’s state media outlet has reported on that here – giving much more of a focus to Iran’s ownership of the declaration than the FCA – which doesn’t mention Iran at all.
https://en.irna.ir/news/84535684/Iran-reminds-nations-of-shared-responsibility-towards-outcomes 

While we are on the FCA bulletin, the NGO has used its privileged position this morning to again slap down the Philippines delegation.  (As we reported on 9 November: A robust statement came out in a video from the Philippines last night, with a call for active participation from all Parties and inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. It stated that the Philippines will not be banning e-cigarettes and recognises the fundamental differences between various tobacco and nicotine products”) . The FCA is also passing judgement this morning on the Brazilian government’s choice of delegation.  Parties nominally hold all the power at FCTC COP – in light of that, how can this level of interference from FCA be tolerated? 

Committee B endorsed the Secretariat’s proposal to establish an Investment Fund. It states that it “may also receive financial inputs from other public and private sources that meet the requirements of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC”. This means that the FCTC is seeking funding from outside its usual channels and the only criteria is that those funds cannot come from what the FCTC defines as the tobacco industry. That does not include pharmaceutical interests or, indeed, Bloomberg Philanthropies. It also opens up the possibility of private businesses with no connection to the tobacco and nicotine debate becoming financial stakeholders in the FCTC, while relevant businesses and consumers are totally locked out. 

Interesting to see that SEATCA is this morning celebrating increased transparency at COP, with the inclusion of accredited media.  We can’t see that those journalists are doing any reporting.  Last night we reported that there is a target to invite just one new NGO application for Observer status, by 2023.  We see no evidence that FCTC COP is working towards increased transparency.

#COP9 LIVE 10 November 2021 #COPnews #COP9FCTC #THRworks

DAY 3 UPDATE #3 19:10 CET

A quiet afternoon for us.  Our highlight has been to read through the draft First report of Committee B, which was published this afternoon, and which mysteriously grew some extra pages, after it was first posted.  

In the report we learn:

  • That they wish to establish the “total amount of Assessed Contributions of Parties for the financial period 2022–2023 at
    US$ 8 801 093” (page 2)

Good luck with getting that out of cash strapped governments!

  • That they have a target for 2023 of getting just one new application for Observer status (page 8):

They could have doubled their target today, if they had accepted NNA UK and INNCO’s applications.

  • How much they are budgeting for staffing costs – this is the biennial cost of the most highly paid person (page 15):
  • That team building retreats are on the agenda for the Secretariat (page 14)

Do read the full document. There is a lot more in it than we have shown here and, for a COP9 document,  it’s quite entertaining. 

In terms of the agenda, as far as we know they have not yet reached item 7, which is where the location for COP10 will be decided.  But, we’ll need to wait for the publication of the ever delightful FCA bulletin and Journal 4 tomorrow for confirmation of where they are up to.  
Keep an eye on this page for those, and other documents.

The African Harm Reduction Alliance has posted this compelling plea from Dr Kgosi Letlape to COP9 delegates to resist WHO “groupthink”.  It is really worth the one minute of your time it will take to watch it:  

Three of our favourite tweets from today:


sCOPe is still livestreaming some really interesting content – click here to see that and join the chat if you wish to.  The Day 4 content has just started. 

Good Night, COPWATCHERS, we’ll be back tomorrow morning.

DAY 3 UPDATE #2 11.55 CET

Unusually for COP meetings, some journalists have survived into at least the second day according to the FCTC. Sadly, when searching for news on COP9 we are unable to find any articles except those written by THR advocates who are, of course, not admitted. If you see anything written by one of these “accredited journalists”, do let us know on our contact form


The FCA bulletin gave the first mention of the “Omnibus decision”, despite that not yet being available to the public (it is, now – see here).  If you can overlook some of the nauseating language, the bulletin has a (we assume accurate) summary of #COP9 day two.  The FCA is, again, trying to influence COP9 through its tasteless awards.

Our award goes to the FCA, for shamelessly trying to influence COP

Journal 3 of COP FCTC is here: https://untobaccocontrol.org/downloads//cop9/journals/FCTC_COP9_Journal_3_EN.pdf

This confirms that “substantive discussions of and decisions” on some of the agenda (including the items which concern “novel” products) will be deferred to COP10, in 2023:

“The Committee was reminded that for the reasons discussed in the opening Plenary under Agenda item 1, the five reports under agenda items 4.1 and 4.2 would be provided for the information of the Parties, with substantive discussions of and decisions on these items deferred to COP10. This approach had been agreed by the COP, as reflected in decision FCTC/COP9(2).”

This decision to postpone those substantive discussions and decisions means that there is a lot less for Parties to get through.  Will COP finish early?

Has someone has been up to dirty tricks to silence the consumer voice? 

SCOPe report that they are back on air, having been temporarily taken down.

sCOPE is streaming some fantastic content – head over to their YouTube channel to watch it.

DAY 3 UPDATE #1 10.00 CET

Good morning and welcome to Day 3 of our COPWATCH updates.  

OBSERVER STATUS DECISION

Overnight, the Observer decision has been published.  It comes as no surprise that COP has accepted the Bureau’s recommendations.  Applications from THR consumer groups have been rejected while several Bloomberg grantees implacably opposed to safer nicotine alternatives are welcomed with open arms (as well as their being spectacularly over-represented in the Participants list

No explanation has been given for the rejections – there are 5 possible reasons (see 3, here).   Adding insult to injury, the rejected applicants have not been notified. They are presumably expected to find out by sitting around and refreshing the official documents page.  Especially wrong when – as Louise Ross points out below – these groups are largely run by volunteers.

‘At the New Nicotine Alliance, we were disappointed and surprised not to receive any notification that our application for an observer place at COP9 had been rejected. We are a small educational charity, managed by volunteers, dedicated to informing and educating the general public, healthcare professionals and policy-makers about safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, and we have no ties with any industry. Decisions made at COP affect ordinary people, and we believe we had a legitimate reason for applying. But we were not permitted to observe, and only found out by default.’

Louise Ross, Interim Chair, New Nicotine Alliance

And, here is the reaction from INNCO: 

“INNCO has applied, and been rejected Observer Status at COP9.  Again.  We were rejected at COP8.  As usual, no explanation was given.  We assume that they assume that anyone who advocates for safer nicotine must be in league with the devil (Big Tobacco).  Or maybe this hints that they’re aware that their dogma is flawed, and simply need to make sure everyone with lived-experience who might contradict that dogma is excluded from the conversation.  Whatever… Our rejection is a violation of our human rights:  Our right to have a seat at the table on policy decisions that affect us and 98 million adults worldwide who use safer nicotine to avoid toxic forms of tobacco.”

Charles Gardner, Executive Director, International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations