Strengthening Global Tobacco Control: Key Outcomes from COP10

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Representatives from 142 countries gathered at the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and reached an agreement to enhance guidelines on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. This significant decision was made during the conference held in Panama from February 5 to 10, with the aim of safeguarding the environment and the health of people worldwide from the harmful effects of tobacco waste.

The COP serves as the governing body of the WHO FCTC, which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The Philippines, a signatory of the WHO FCTC since September 2003 and a ratified member since June 6, 2005, actively participated in the conference.

One notable development during the conference was the inclusion of an agenda item proposed by Brazil regarding Article 18 of the WHO FCTC. This article addresses concerns related to the serious risks posed by tobacco cultivation to human health and the environment. The consensus among the parties led to a commitment to address the environmental impacts associated with the cultivation, manufacture, consumption, and waste disposal of tobacco products, including the issue of plastic cigarette filters.

Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo of the Department of Health (DoH) emphasized the Philippines’ support for addressing the environmental consequences of tobacco production. He highlighted the need to consider the impact of tobacco growing on both human health and the environment. By joining the consensus, the Philippines demonstrated its commitment to tackling the environmental challenges posed by tobacco.

During the conference, Health Undersecretary and DoH Chief of Staff Lilibeth David shared the success story of the Philippines in increasing excise taxes on tobacco. This achievement not only provided a win-win revenue deal for the Universal Health Care but also contributed to a decrease in smoking prevalence. The Philippines’ proactive approach to tobacco taxation was acknowledged in a side meeting on the State of Tobacco Taxation: Latest Global Developments and Outlook.

Participants and experts at the side meeting agreed that in countries where vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products are regulated, their excise taxes should be equivalent to those imposed on conventional tobacco products. While an absolute ban on these products is considered ideal, the consensus recognized the importance of aligning their taxation with that of traditional tobacco products.

The Philippine delegation, in line with national law and the laws of similarly situated parties, advocated for approaches that both ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship outright and those that impose restrictions. This position aimed to respect the diversity of national contexts while working towards the shared goal of tobacco control.

In addition to the agreement on strengthening guidelines, COP10 also adopted the Panama Declaration. This declaration highlights the inherent conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and public health. It emphasizes the need for policy coherence within governments to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, as outlined in Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.

The Department of Health expressed gratitude to Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara for leading the Philippine delegation and guiding them in taking strong positions on tobacco control, considering the requirements of national law. The department looks forward to collaborating with colleagues from the entire government to implement international commitments to tobacco control within the country, with the DoH taking the lead in these efforts.

The decisions made at COP10 signify a collective effort by countries to address the challenges posed by tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship across borders. By strengthening guidelines and promoting policy coherence, the international community takes a significant step towards protecting public health and safeguarding the environment from the detrimental effects of tobacco waste.

Source: The Manila Times

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