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Tobacco control and the World Trade Organization: mapping member states’ positions after the framework convention on tobacco control
  1. Jappe Eckhardt1,
  2. Chris Holden2,
  3. Cynthia D Callard3
  1. 1Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University—Blusson Hall, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Department of Social Policy & Social Work, University of York, Heslington, York, UK
  3. 3Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jappe Eckhardt, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University—Blusson Hall, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby BC V5A 1S6, Canada; jappe.eckhardt{at}


Objective To note the frequency of discussions and disputes about tobacco control measures at the World Trade Organization (WTO) before and after the coming into force of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). To review trends or patterns in the positions taken by members of the WTO with respect to tobacco control measures. To discuss possible explanations for these observed trends/patterns.

Methods We gathered data on tobacco-related disputes in the WTO since its establishment in 1995 and its forerunner, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), prior-FCTC and post-FCTC. We also looked at debates on tobacco control measures within the WTO more broadly. To this end, we classified and coded the positions of WTO member states during discussions on tobacco control and the FCTC, from 1995 until 2013, within the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council.

Results There is a growing interest within the WTO for tobacco-related issues and opposition to tobacco control measures is moving away from high-income countries towards low(er) income countries.

Conclusions The growing prominence of tobacco issues in the WTO can be attributed at least in part to the fact that during the past decade tobacco firms have been marginalised from the domestic policy-making process in many countries, which has forced them to look for other ways and forums to influence decision-making. Furthermore, the finding that almost all recent opposition within the WTO to stronger tobacco regulations came from developing countries is consistent with a relative shift of transnational tobacco companies’ lobbying efforts from developed to developing countries.

  • Global health
  • Globalisation
  • Low/Middle income country
  • Packaging and Labelling
  • Tobacco industry

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  • Contributors CC planned the study, collected most of the data, carried out the analysis and gave final approval of the version to be published. JE gathered additional data, drafted the manuscript and prepared the manuscript for final submission. CH revised each draft critically and gave final approval of the version to be published.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health under grant number R01-CA091021.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval ID tobaccocontrol-2015-052486.R1.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.