Delegates at a conference next week on controlling tobacco with ties
to the business could be refused credentials and ejected, according
to an internal document seen by Reuters.
The proposal, if adopted by the full Framework Convention on Tobacco
Control (FCTC) at the conference in India, could affect delegates
sent by countries like China and Vietnam, where governments own
cigarette companies or promote tobacco growing and have in the past
sent representatives linked to the industry.
Any such members of the 180 delegations at the Nov. 7-12 conference
near New Delhi "would be requested to leave the premises", according
to the Oct. 17 "note verbale", an official diplomatic communication,
from the WHO FCTC secretariat on behalf of the treaty's leadership
group to its parties.
At the last WHO FCTC conference, in Moscow in 2014, China's
18-person delegation had four members from the "State Tobacco
At the 2012 conference, in Seoul, two of eight Vietnamese delegates
were from the "Vietnam Tobacco Association".
When asked about the letter, a Vietnamese government official who
declined to be identified told Reuters there would be no industry
representatives in their delegation.
China's Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
The proposed restriction highlights a growing battle between the
industry and backers of the treaty, which went into effect in 2005
to guide national laws and policies in an effort to curb tobacco
use, which kills an estimated 6 million people a year worldwide.
The global tobacco industry is estimated to be worth nearly $800
billion this year.
The International Tobacco Growers Association, a nonprofit group
partly funded by big international cigarette companies, said the
proposal was "beyond the wildest imagination".
António Abrunhosa, chief executive of the group and a Portuguese
tobacco grower, said in an email to Reuters that such a step was
"unthinkable for a United Nations agency".
[to top of second column]
John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at Corporate Accountability
International, a Boston-based advocacy group that has supported
tobacco-control efforts, praised the proposed restrictions.
"The tobacco industry has really forced parties and the secretariat
into a corner," he said in an interview.
"This is a bold good-government action to ensure that the treaty
space, the place where public health policies will save millions of
lives, is free of tobacco industry intimidation."
Issues for debate at the conference include alternative livelihoods
for tobacco farmers, e-cigarette regulation and trade and investment
The secretariat earlier wrote to the treaty's party nations asking
them to exclude people with tobacco interests from their
In the latest note, the secretariat said it then turned to a FCTC
leadership group for guidance after receiving a number of
nominations from countries that ignored the suggestion.
(Amends first paragraph to show treaty leadership could be tougher.)
(Additional reporting by Sue-Lin Wong in Beijing; Editing by Tom
Lasseter, Robert Birsel)
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