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:

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.