Global gov'ts: Make tobacco firms liable for smoking harm

November 13, 2016 by Nirmala George
In this Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, an Indian man smokes a cigarette in New Delhi, India. A global conference on tobacco control has pledged to hold the tobacco industry legally liable for health consequences of smoking and protect public health policies from the influence of tobacco companies.Representatives from around 180 countries participating in the World Health Organization's global tobacco control treaty negotiations on Saturday adopted a declaration in which they also vowed to prohibit or regulate the sale of e-cigarettes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

A global conference on tobacco control has pledged to hold the tobacco industry legally liable for health consequences of smoking and protect public health policies from the influence of tobacco companies.

Representatives from around 180 countries participating in the World Health Organization's global tobacco control treaty negotiations on Saturday adopted a declaration in which they also vowed to prohibit or regulate the sale of e-cigarettes.

The six-day conference on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, concluded with participating countries agreeing to promote alternative livelihoods for that would ensure a better future for them.

Public health activists say smoking-related deaths are still rising worldwide, with 80 percent of them expected to occur in developing countries by 2030. The WHO says that without strong control measures, tobacco will kill about 1 billion people in the 21st century.

The more than 1,500 delegates expressed their concern about persistent attempts by the to infiltrate the meetings in order to influence the working and the outcomes of the conference.

The declaration cautioned governments against efforts by big tobacco companies to dilute health policies, subvert measures to restrict and undermine the implementation of the FCTC.

"The long hours of debate and planning has produced a strong road map for global tobacco control for the future," Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the convention secretariat, told reporters.

In this Nov. 2, 2016 file photo, an Indian man takes a cigarette from a pack in New Delhi, India. A global conference on tobacco control has pledged to hold the tobacco industry legally liable for health consequences of smoking and protect public health policies from the influence of tobacco companies.Representatives from around 180 countries participating in the World Health Organization's global tobacco control treaty negotiations on Saturday adopted a declaration in which they also vowed to prohibit or regulate the sale of e-cigarettes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

She said the tobacco industry was "determined to undermine and distract us from our goal—to fight against the tobacco epidemic that not only damages health and kills people, but also impoverishes those living in low- to middle-income countries."

The conference declaration included measures to hold big tobacco companies liable for the health consequences of its products, recover health care costs and facilitate access to justice for victims of tobacco-related diseases.

Since they set down stiff regulations and guidelines in the landmark 2003 FCTC treaty—the first and only global treaty dealing with —most of the 180 signatories have ratified it and passed laws restricting or sales.

Still, many governments remain entangled with powerful , while industry lobbyists continue attempts to stymie efforts to implement anti-smoking laws through bribery, misinformation and even suing national governments for lost profits, campaigners say.

Health activists hailed the decision on legal liability, saying it could set a precedent for holding other industries accountable for environmental damage or public health harms they could cause.

"The tobacco industry is the single largest barrier to policies globally—and these negotiations were no exception," said John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at the Boston-based lobbying group Corporate Accountability International.

Stewart said the firm stand taken by delegates, who stood up to the tobacco industry, had enabled governments to adopt "some of the strongest measures yet to protect millions of people's lives."

Explore further: Health groups back efforts to protect tobacco control measures under trans-pacific partnership agreement

Related Stories

Cigarette firms slowing anti-tobacco fight: report

March 20, 2012

Alleged "interference" by cigarette firms in public health policies is slowing down a UN-backed global campaign against tobacco use and its related health risks, a report said Tuesday.

Tobacco industry tactics influential in e-cigarette policy

September 15, 2016

By employing the same tactics it used to drive policymaking from the 1970s-1990s, the tobacco industry has become successful in influencing pro-industry e-cigarette laws at the state level, according to a UCSF study published ...

Reducing global tobacco use

April 20, 2015

Although global efforts to cut tobacco use have had some success, more can be done to reduce the number of deaths from smoking, according to a commentary published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

WHO says too few countries taxing tobacco products enough

July 7, 2015

Taxing cigarettes up to 75 percent of their retail price is among the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, but too few governments levy high enough taxes, according to a World Health Organization global report released ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.