The devastating impact of COVID-19 has underscored the fundamental importance of health and tobacco control. Smoking has been associated with a more rapid progression of COVID-19. Numerous studies have also shown that smoking and vaping are linked to more severe outcomes of the disease.
With governments looking for solutions to strengthen health systems and public health policies, the crisis presents a golden opportunity to urge stronger implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). To undermine public health efforts, in the times of the pandemic, the tobacco industry has shamelessly paraded donation drives, promoted misleading information, and aggressively marketed its products online and offline. It also lobbied heavily and initiated legal suits to challenge temporary sales bans.
WHO FCTC: Protect Public Health and Make Tobacco Industry Pay
The WHO FCTC calls on governments to adopt stronger tobacco control laws, create robust legal frameworks, and take action to make the tobacco industry pay compensation for the harms it has caused.
With Article 5.3 and Article 19 of the WHO FCTC, Parties have potent tools at their disposal, not only to safeguard public health policies from the tobacco industry’s commercial and vested interests, but also to make the tobacco industry pay for harms it has caused. Together, implementation of these articles fulfills Goal 3: Good Health and Well Being and Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition to practical resources to support implementation made available by the Convention Secretariat, the WHO FCTC Secretariat’s Knowledge Hub for Art 5.3 and its partners, there are country experiences and practices in the health, human rights, and governance sector that can provide direction:
Strong political will is needed to translate these tools into action
Treaty tools and a variety of experiences and models demonstrate the existence of powerful mechanisms available to hold the tobacco industry to account and to demand compensation for harms done. Now that Covid-19 has underscored the harms tobacco industry has caused, governments can seize the moment to make the tobacco industry accountable and liable.
Learn more in this STOP policy brief prepared by GGTC, Tobacco Industry Accountability and Liability in the Time of COVID-19. Find the statement of Dr. Adriana Blanco, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat, on tobacco control during the COVID-19 pandemic here. Materials used for this webinar are available upon request here.