World Health Organization Warns of Tobacco Industry Malfeasance

It’s World No Tobacco Day, and the World Health Organization is taking the opportunity to push back against the tobacco industry and its nefarious influence over policy in parts of the world.

From the WHO:

“In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into court rooms,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens.”

More countries are moving to fully meet their obligations under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Governments are working to create 100% smoke-free, enclosed work and public places; to inform the public of tobacco harms through large and strong pictorial warning on tobacco packages; and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The tobacco industry however, is hard at work to undermine the treaty, including taking governments to court. In fact, the governments of Australia, Norway and Uruguay are currently battling tobacco industry law suits in their national courts.

Combating tobacco industry interference

Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC urges countries to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. On World No Tobacco Day, WHO is releasing a technical resource paper and global brief based on 2008 guidelines for implementation of this Article of the treaty to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference. The paper covers a range of issues including:

  • maneuvering to hijack the political and legislative process
  • exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry
  • manipulating public opinion to gain the appearance of respectability
  • fabricating support through front groups
  • discrediting proven science
  • intimidating governments with litigation or the threat of litigation.