Growers at CoP4

The summary of the decisions adopted during the Conference

cop4.jpgThe Conference approved in principle the need to regulate flavouring ingredients that supposedly, increase the attractiveness of tobacco products and recommended restricting (or) banning ingredients, flavourings and additives in the manufacture of tobacco products. Final decisions were left to national governments.

The COP-4 voted to create a working group that will draft guidelines on tobacco taxation not unlike the excise tax harmonization efforts that have been underway for some time in the European Union. A final decision on a protocol to combat illicit trade in tobacco products, however, was deferred for further discussion to a working group with results due in 2012.

A wide range of issues were discussed regarding the following FCTC articles: Article 6: price and tax, Articles 9 & 10: product regulation; Article 12: education and training; Article 13: advertising, promotion and sponsorship; Article 14: cessation; Articles 17&18: Economically sustainable alternatives for tobacco growing and Article 19: liability.

Six applications for observer status were submitted to the Secretariat of the Conference. The Bureau rejected the applications of the Global Acetate Manufacturers Association and ITGA.

Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives
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Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives
Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives Tobacco Growers' Initiatives

Summary of the decisions on each article:

Article 6: Price and Tax

Delegations agreed to establish a working group to develop draft guidelines on tobacco taxation, as well as providing continued funding for the Convention which is in a deficit position. The COP-4 report states that in order to reduce tobacco consumption and improve health using tax/price policies there are some measures to be adopted. A tax structure that raises the prices of all tobacco products, with no consideration given to relative risk issues, and minimizes the gap between the prices of low and high-priced brands of a given type of tobacco product, reduces opportunities for tobacco users to switch to cheaper brands/products in response to tax increases, thus maximizing the health impact of a tobacco tax increase should be implemented. However, some have interpreted this as beneficial to manufacturers that focus on premium products and have urged tax system based on a specific tax (tax per unit) rather than ad valorem system. (Tax based on value).

Articles 9 & 10: Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and regulation of tobacco product disclosures.

Delegations agreed to recommend "restricting or banning" ingredients, flavourings and additives that increase attractiveness. In view of the number of requests for amendments, the Chair proposed that facilitators compile all suggestions into a document for discussion in an open-ended working group. For ingredients used to increase palatability such as sweeteners, flavouring substances, species and herbs, four proposals restrict (or) prohibit ingredients that may be used to increase palatability,unless these ingredients are critical for the manufacturing of these products and are not linked to attractiveness.

The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) explained that the guidelines do not ban particular types of tobacco but recommend that Parties to the FCTC "restrict or prohibit" flavouring and additives that make tobacco products attractive to youth. The FCA argued that tobacco producing countries had been misinformed about the guidelines.

According to Professor Michael Siegel of Boston University's School of Public Health, Working Group's draft recommendations for the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC, will mislead consumers into thinking that the "no additive" cigarettes are safer that traditional counterparts.

OnNovember 19, 2010, the Secretariat made a brief presentation on smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes as contained in document FCTC/COP/4/12 and asked for a paper to be presented at the next plenary meeting.

Ahead of this fourth session of the COP-4, a letter to the editor in the journal Addiction, claims that the WHO FCTC Secretariat's background report for the Conference of the Parties (COP-4), contains information that is incompatible with the report provided by the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation since the latter emphasizes the variation among different smokeless tobacco products and calls for regulations on the contents of smokeless products, while the Secretariat's report refers to smokeless tobacco as just one type of product with uniform properties.

The WHO Study Group points out that smokeless tobacco products "with low level of nitrosamines, such Swedish snus, are considerably less hazardous than cigarettes. The Study Group also recognizes that smokeless tobacco products could be used in a way that would enable smokers to quit smoking. 

Articles 12 & 14: Education and training

Guidelines on education, communication, training and public awareness (article 12) and cessation measures (Article 14) were approved. COP-4 decided that smoking cessation services should be integrated into national health.

Article 13: Cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship

The Working Group made proposals, namely the establishment of an expert group as a means of notifying Parties of instances of cross-borders advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Article 15: Illicit trade in tobacco products

Negotiations on a protocol to combat illicit trade in tobacco products should continue with the aim of completing in 2012. The draft protocol on illicit trade in tobacco product indicates that each party must prohibit the conduct of any of the following activities by any legal or natural person except pursuant to a licence or equivalent approval granted, or control system implemented by a competent national authority in accordance with national law: 1) manufacture of tobacco products and manufacturing equipment; and 2) import or export of tobacco products and manufacturing equipment.

Articles 17 & 18: Economically sustainable alternatives for tobacco growing.

It was decided that the work on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing must be extended in order to find appropriate policy options and recommendations. "International institutions and farmer organizations should also play a fundamental role in the decision-making and implementation process".

Article 19

Decision: Further work was requested on the issue of liability with regard to the health effects of tobacco consumption.

On November 19, 2010, the countries signed a tobacco control accord expressing "concerns for actions by tobacco industry which seeks to subvert and undermine government policies to control tobacco consumption". 

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CoP4 Punta del Este (Uruguay), November 2010

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 COP4 15th to 20th of November

The fourth session of the Conference of the Parties was held in November 2010 from 15th to 20th  in Punta del Este,Uruguay. ITGA along with a wide representation of tobacco growers, stood right in front of the Conrad Hotel where the Conference took place. 

The Conference opened its first session on    November 15 th at08:30 pm with the Canadian delegation. Meanwhile, a total of 60 tobacco growers formed by delegations from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Malawi and represented by ITGA, settled in a tent in front of the hotel to follow as close as possible every step of the ongoing decisions taken by the committees and plenaries, attending and debating the impact of the decisions and informing the delegates of the FCTC. ITGA struggled from the beginning to be included in the discussions that will impact on tobacco grower's livelihoods but unreasonable allegations were given by the FCTC in order to stop it fromattending the COP-4 as observers. 

The tonic of the week was marked by the initiatives developed by tobacco growers, among which it is worth to mention the distribution of flyers at the entrance of the Conference confronting tough security measures that kept them from informing the delegates, the elaboration of placards symbolizing their position and a daily journal, "the grower's voice" which was doled out every morning. On the other hand, the head representatives of ITGA Mr Roger Quarles and Mr Abrunhosa, conceded many interviews to different TV and Radio channels.

Previously to these actions, as ITGA was not permitted to address the delegates, a petition with the growers concerns was circulated with the help of tobacco associations in months of arduous work pointing out to one unique goal: to spread the voice of the tobacco farmers and their unconformity regarding articles 9, 10, 17 & 18 (of the FCTC). There were thirty six tobacco associations from all over the world involved in this project and together we were able to gather 238.000 signatures that arrived to Punta del Este, on November 16th.Their commitment made possible to accomplish the main purposes. 

According to the 16th of November FCTC daily bulletin, implementations of policies regarding articles 9 and 10 are related to ingredients or additives in cigarrettes but it does not mention impact of the ingredients ban on the people more affected by these measures, the Burley and Oriental growers, as it will be almost impossible to make blended cigarettes without some of the ingredients that the FCTC wanted to ban. And these cigarettes account for more than 50% of the world market outsideChina, obviously affecting the demand for the Burley and Oriental varieties. 

After many attempts to be received by the Head of the Secretariat of the FCTC, Dr Haik Nicogosian, to deliver personally the signatures to him, it was possible to do it on the third day of the Conference as a result of the pressure installed by 150 Brazilians tobacco growers who arrived on the 17th of November and demonstrated in front of the entrance of the Conference Hall. They were displaced many times by Conference security in charge of security during the Conference, and a police deployment occupied the entrance and surroundings. Finally, the growers had gather in  a distant zone, behind the gardens and almost on the road.

Providing some dignity to the FCTC event, Dr Haik Nicogosian received a group of tobacco growers headed by the President of ITGA, Mr Roger Quarles, in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel and accepted the 238.000 signatures opposing decisions on articles 9, 10, 17 and 18, that might be taken without any scientific evidence on its positive impact on health and the negative impact on the livelihoods of millions of grower's families. He assured that our message would be made clear to country delegations and the initiative would not be forgotten among bureaucracy papers. This was without any doubt the highlight of the week.

At the same time, the FCTC supporters adopted a more and more insulting rhetoric in their allegations against our position claiming in one of their bulletins issued on 18th of November literally that "Big Tobacco manipulated farmers" as if they were easily operable marionettes, and ignoring the substance of the growers petition.  

Soon our confidence was undertaken prompted by the lack of arguments by the working groups to discuss ingredients and alternative crops and delegations likeChinaput these matters on top of the agenda. This fact confirmed that the Conference summit was never going to deliver what its framers craved.

Conclusively, as a result of the cohesion of the group who worked as a team, at the disclosure of the Conference Venue it was determined:

  • Tobacco growers supported by ITGA, reassured their position and made clear that in the future, they will insist in taking part of the decisions that affect essentially their livelihoods.
  • The FCTC will have to engage better arguments to keep us offside.
  • Working groups are not prepared to approach alternatives matters as a consequence of their policies no to let experts in agricultural to take part in the discussions.
  • ITGA will keep a wary eye on future decisions articulated by the FCTC

The week can be quoted as successful in terms of achievements; consequently, we recognise the commitment and effort that was made in order to approach our main goals. We thank everyone involved, from the tobacco delegations represented in the venue, to the people who took care of all the logistic that made possible the fulfilment of the event, to the participants in the COP4 that stepped by our tent and allowed us to discuss peacefully the reason of our claims.

We acknowledge that much more work has to be done. The decisions regarding articles 9&10, 17&18 are still on the table and pointing out to the next Conference of the Parties to be developed inSeoulin 2012. We look towards to this next objective and till then, we will work arduously to defend tobacco growers' position.

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