The Convention Secretariat commends Australia for adopting new guidance for public officials on interacting with the tobacco industry

At its third session in November 2008, the Conference of the Parties (COP) adopted Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry (decision FCTC/COP3(7)).

Australia is the most recent Party which has published guidance that outlines the legal obligations for public officials on interacting with the tobacco industry to support the implementation of article 5.3.

The Australian Government Department of Health’s Guidance for Public Officials on Interacting with the Tobacco Industry was released in November 2019 to raise awareness on how consultations with the tobacco industry should be limited to what is necessary for public officials or agencies to enact effective tobacco control measures. The guides cover the following broad areas:

  • Limiting interactions by public officials with the tobacco industry, including interaction with any person or organization that is likely to be working to further the interests of the tobacco industry.
  • Avoiding and managing conflicts of interest with the tobacco industry
  • Requiring information provided by the tobacco industry to be transparent and accurate
  • Rejecting partnerships with the tobacco industry
  • Avoiding preferential treatment of the tobacco industry as this would be in conflict with tobacco control policy
  • De-normalizing the tobacco industry’s ‘socially responsible’ activities

The guide constitutes an important effort of the Australian Government to comply with the provisions of Article 5.3 obligations, the Guidelines for the implementation of Art. 5.3, as well as COP related decisions when extending the obligation to protect tobacco control policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry to novel and emerging tobacco and products such as heated tobacco products.

Australia’s guide also highlights the decision taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in June 2017 to deny authorization to tobacco companies to engage in joint and coordinated action against suppliers of tobacco products to counter illicit tobacco.

Other examples of guidance from countries to government officials on how to protect from the interference of the tobacco industry can be drawn from the Philippines and Thailand.

Additionally, to ensure that any support to the tobacco industry is consistent with the provisions of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, the United Kingdom has released in 2013 revised guidance for overseas posts on support to the tobacco industry.

The WHO FCTC Guidelines recommend each Party to limit interactions with representatives from these industries to protect tobacco control policies from the interests of the tobacco industry. As the Parties to the WHO FCTC have agreed, there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. The Convention Secretariat praises this initiative and invites Parties to share any guidance for public officials in implementing article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.