13 March 2017 – Under the leadership of the Smoke Free Partnership (SFP), a pan-European tobacco control Foundation, ECC joined 29 other health organisations calling EU politicians speakers at an European Commission conference on illicit trade to withdraw from the conference programme, an event sponsored by British American Tobacco (BAT).
As stated in the official letter (see link below): the conference to be held on 22nd of March is organised with steering and funding by a tobacco company, which has input to the programme and provides speakers to this conference. This is against the guidelines to Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been ratified by the EU and all its 28 Member States.
The European Union and its Member States, as Parties to the WHO FCTC, are committed to and legally bound to protect its policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. One of the major drivers behind the development of the FCTC was the understanding that the tobacco industry is not just another industry and that normal rules of engagement cannot apply. In a press release, SFP said:
“The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of hiding behind third parties and of sponsoring reputation-building opportunities. This practice is not new in Brussels, where some tobacco companies use trade associations and interest groups, and others use sponsored events, including by online news platforms, to establish links with policy makers. Even so, it is just shameless to hijack the issue of terrorism, a major concern for every single European citizen, to keep selling a product that kills millions.
The Smoke Free Partnership and health organisations in Europe remain strongly committed to promoting effective measures for combating the illicit tobacco trade. The illicit tobacco trade does not only hurt the economy (rough estimates show that it amounts about $40.5 billion a year with $17.6 billion loss for governments in high income countries), it is a public health problem and it deprives the health sector of additional financing, deepens health inequalities and encourages smoking among young people. Around 164,000 lives a year could be saved if the illicit trade was tackled properly.
Over and above, policy makers should be aware that any relationship with tobacco companies will undermine Europe’s credibility and international commitments on the ratification of the Illicit Trade Protocol.”
Letter to MEP Ana Gomes (who then withdrew her participation to the conference)