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

#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.

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)

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.

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.

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.