GGTC to UN: Fight tobacco industry “misinfodemic”

May 5, 2020

The Global Center for Good Governance supports the call to the United Nations (UN) to include the tobacco industry misinformation in the efforts to battle the COVID-19 “misinfodemic.” The call is embodied in a letter dated April 30, 2020 wherein 52 public health movers from all over the world, wrote to the UN Secretary General António Guterres to call out tobacco industry manipulations to mask the estimated USD 460 billion annual burden it causes to the global healthcare system.

Through the open letter, the global public health community condemned tobacco industry’s role in the spread of health messages that sow confusion such as those that promote smoking or vaping during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tobacco industry, known for undermining scientific evidence and deceiving the public, has reportedly branded itself as part of the solution, maximized visibility of its donations and at the same time, lobbied to deem cigarettes as essential goods despite lockdown restrictions and sought tax privileges for its deadly products.

“Governments around the world must remain vigilant and put public health at the forefront. An industry that is responsible for 8 million annual deaths globally should not be considered a part of the solution during the pandemic,” says Bungon Ritthiphakdee, Executive Director of GGTC.

 “Tobacco industry’s tactics undermine the government’s obligation to protect public health from commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry, in violation of Article 5.3 of the global tobacco control treaty,” she added.

The said letter was a response to Secretary General António Guterres’s statement launching the United Nations COVID-19 Communications Response initiative to counter the global “misinfodemic”. The group also called on the UN offices to adopt the Model policy for agencies of the United Nations system on preventing tobacco industry interference which was designed to prevent the tobacco industry from gaining credibility by associating itself with the UN or accessing governments through the UN offices.

The global tobacco control treaty refers to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which is also embodied in Target 3.A (Health) of the Sustainable Development Goals. It includes provisions that promise health and economic gains including potential for health/development financing that could form part of a comprehensive response to the devastating socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19. A distinct feature of the WHO FCTC is the governments’ obligation to protect public health policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry (Article 5.3). WHO FCTC Article 13 requires a comprehensive ban on tobacco industry advertising promotion and sponsorship, including the so-called Corporate Social Responsibility and donations.

The joint global effort was coordinated by Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), a global tobacco industry watchdog that has been monitoring, among others, the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence global policy through UN agencies and governments.

For further information, please contact: Ms. Kathleen Lungub, Communications Officer, GGTC, kathleen@ggtc.world, +63(917)1424455.

About GGTC

Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) aims to address the single greatest obstacle to tobacco control, tobacco industry interference. It is a joint initiative of the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and has been designated as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat as the Knowledge Hub on Article 5.3, (treaty provision on countering tobacco industry interference). GGTC is also a key partner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP).