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The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control1 (FCTC), which has now been ratified by 166 countries, is the first global public health treaty to be developed by the World Health Organization and represents a crucial milestone for tobacco control. In recognition of systematic, often covert tobacco industry efforts to undermine tobacco control policy, Article 5.3 of the FCTC specifically requires that, “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.1 The impact of Article 5.3 depends on governments’ commitment to implementing the guidelines agreed in Durban, in November 2008.2 Given that tobacco industry success in undermining tobacco control to date has relied on its ability to influence policy,3 it is perhaps unsurprising that tobacco companies lobbied hard against the Article 5.3 guidelines and are now trying to undermine their implementation by claiming that they contravene existing commitments to “better regulation” and “good governance”.4 5 6 7 What the companies fail to acknowledge is that at least one major tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT), had a lead role in promoting these concepts.
In the European Union and the United Kingdom the strategy being employed by major tobacco companies (both before and after the agreement of the Article 5.3 guidelines) is to claim that Article 5.3 contravenes existing official standards on consultation because it requires complete exclusion of the tobacco industry from policy discussions (in fact, it merely requires that consultation should be limited to that which is strictly necessary and should be transparent and accountable). Such claims are frequently framed within broader policy commitments to “better regulation” or “good governance”, as table 1 illustrates.
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