Thursday, August 13, 2009

U.S. Violates FCTC Tobacco Control Treaty At Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' Insistence

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Undermines International Tobacco Control and Displays Blinding Hypocrisy

Upon the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' insistence and as a result of its vigorous lobbying, the United States has violated the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty by granting the tobacco industry permanent membership on the scientific advisory panel that will help the FDA implement its tobacco regulations.

This violation was first reported by Glantz, Barnes, and Eubanks in their blistering critique of the FDA tobacco legislation (see: Glantz SA, Barnes R, Eubanks SY. Compromise or capitulation? US Food and Drug Administration jurisdiction over tobacco products. PLoS Medicine 2009; 6(7):e1000118).

According to the FDA legislation, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee shall consist of two members of the tobacco industry, including one representative of the major tobacco companies and one representative of the smaller tobacco companies.

However, Article 5.3 of the FCTC treaty states: "Parties should not allow any person employed by the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to be a member of any government body, committee or advisory group that sets or implements tobacco control or public health policy."

The Rest of the Story

It is shameful that one of the nation's leading tobacco control groups has led the charge to put the U.S. in violation of the FCTC treaty.

The FDA has been accused of becoming increasingly politicized and losing its pure science focus. This action by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other anti-smoking groups makes the problem much worse, as it politicizes decisions regarding the most dangerous product that the FDA is being asked to regulate.

President Obama, in his inauguration speech, said that under his administration, we would "return science to its rightful place." Thanks to the anti-smoking groups which promoted this bill, the politicization of the FDA is institutionalized, rather than resolved.

Not only does the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' agreement to the tobacco industry representation on the advisory committee clause undermine the entire integrity of the FDA, but it also severely undermines the entire field of international tobacco control.

As Glantz et al. write: "The multinational tobacco companies will almost certainly use the precedent in the FDA bill to undermine implementation of the FCTC elsewhere, particularly since leading health advocates in the United States have been publicly defending this provision. Even though the US is not yet a party to the FCTC, US advocates must consider the global public health impacts of their actions here."

Nevertheless, as Arlo Guthrie once said, this is not what I've come to talk to you about. What I've come to talk about is hypocrisy.

Regardless of one's position on the FCTC treaty itself, we should all be able to agree that it would be blinding hypocrisy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to insist that the U.S. violate the treaty - on the one hand - and for the Campaign to urge countries across the globe to sign, ratify, and implement the provisions of the treaty, on the other hand.

Yet that is precisely what the Campaign is doing.

The Campaign is waging an initiative to urge countries around the world to ratify and implement the treaty. The Campaign even has an implementation guide on its web site, in which it declares that countries must follow Article 5.3, which is intended to "protect public health policies from tobacco industry influence."

Thus, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is full of hypocrisy. On the one hand they are telling other countries they must adhere to the FCTC treaty. On the other hand, they negotiated and supported legislation that puts the U.S. in violation of the treaty.

Thus, the rest of the story is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids knowingly lobbied for a policy to put the U.S. in permanent violation of the FCTC treaty while at the same time demanding that other countries adhere to the policy.

That, my friends, is blinding hypocrisy.

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