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