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The champagne flutes might be lined up at Philip Morris International’s (PMI) headquarters in Lausanne near Geneva after a series of recent developments that are extremely troubling for the global tobacco control movement. It may not be widely known to those who associate Switzerland with clean skies, snowy mountains and crystalline lakes, but tobacco multinationals are highly influential there and the country badly lags the rest of the world in implementing strong tobacco control policies to protect its citizens.1 Given that Geneva also happens to be the headquarters for the WHO, the country’s failure to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) shows which of the two organisations seem to dominate its government policy. In fact, PMI recently cosponsored the opening of a Swiss government embassy in Moscow and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approved PMI to be the main sponsor of the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. Concerned observers have been noting on social media the increased tobacco industry lobbying of United Nations (UN) officials.2
An article appearing in Foreign Policy in early July3 highlighted a shocking memo, sent by Michael Møller on the very last day of his tenure as head of the UN office in Geneva, to UN Secretary-General António Guterres with the appalling suggestion that ‘a more nuanced’ approach might be warranted in relation to existing policies banning UN agency engagement with tobacco companies. Tobacco companies have long been excluded from such involvement, given the tobacco industry’s extensive, well-documented history of deception and the fundamental conflict of interest between public health objectives and the profit-making objectives of tobacco companies. Article 5.3 of …
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