What we expect to happen in the world of Tobacco Control in 2024

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The new year is a good time to look forward to the next 12 months. So let’s dig into what we expect to happen in the world of tobacco control in 2024.


Steps forward in tobacco control policy

The announcement of the UK government’s proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which contains a measure to restrict the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009, was one of the biggest moments within tobacco control in 2023.

The public consultation stage has now closed with roughly 25,000 responses from both members of the public (e.g. teachers, parents, healthcare professionals), as well as tobacco industry bodies (e.g. Imperial Tobacco). We also know that the industry have pulled out their familiar lobbying tactics to influence the consultation, which is a surprise to no-one. So, what’s next?

Well it is expected that the bill will be introduced to Parliament at some point in this year. How this will be affected by the general election which must take place by January 2025 is yet to be seen but the world will be keenly watching what happens next, particularly in light of recent developments elsewhere…

These include the shocking decision by New Zealand’s new government to repeal the country’s planned smokefree generation legislation. This was due to come into force in July 2024 and would have ensured that those born after 2008 were not able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products.

Considered by many to be a world-leading policy, the new government reversed the plan on the basis that revenue from tobacco could help fund tax cuts. This is despite research suggesting that the policy would have economic benefits for New Zealand in addition to saving up to 5,000 lives each year. Opponents also presented unbased claims that the ban would fuel illicit trade in tobacco, which we have already seen repeated in the UK debate.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, a similar policy has stalled because of industry interference. We hope attention is also focussed on that country’s efforts to become smoke-free.

One thing is for sure, those involved in planning similar legislation in the UK and further afield are likely to have taken notice of the stalling of similar proposals around the world and the furore that has caused.


WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

In February, the first in-person Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) since 2018 will be held. The WHO FCTC was developed to protect public health from the tobacco epidemic in a cooperative and global manner.

The meeting will be an opportunity for delegations from around the globe to come together to discuss tobacco control policy.

It is also the first COP where Malawi – where tobacco growing continues to play a big part in the country’s economy, will attend as a party, following its ratification of the convention in August 2023.

What remains to be seen is the extent to which the tobacco industry may attempt to undermine the decisions that are made. We do know that the industry have publicly stated that they plan to be in Panama at the time of the conference, despite the framework explicitly prohibiting them from being part of the discussions. We have gathered all of the latest info on industry interference around COP10 and MOP3 here.


Same old, same old for FSFW

As we wrote in December, the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (FSFW) had a big 2023, both introducing a new President and receiving a $122.5 million lump sum from Philip Morris International (PMI) as a ‘termination statement’.

This lump sum effectively funds FSFW for a further seven years, until 2030 (at a rate of $17.5 million annually – the grant amount FSFW received from PMI in 2022 and 2023). We don’t know how long it will take for the money to be spent but we cannot consider FSFW independent when we know it is still funded by PMI money.

In 2024, we expect FSFW to rebrand and attempt to find additional and alternative funding sources. What is unlikely to change however, is that they will continue to further the interests of the tobacco industry.


UN treaties

Cigarettes contain significant amounts of plastic and are the most-littered item on the planet. The littering of disposable plastic e-cigarettes containing lithium batteries is also causing increasing environmental damage.

The UN global plastic treaty, which aims to reduce plastic pollution and the damage it inflicts on the natural environment, is due to come into effect by the end of 2024. We are interested to find out whether tobacco products will be affected by any bans or increased regulation against Single Use Plastics (SUP) introduced by the treaty.

Another treaty to be aware of is the United Nations Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, which is still in development stages. The aims of this treaty are to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. As ASH US have explained, many human rights are impacted by the actions of the tobacco industry so the development of this treaty is something we at TCRG will be keeping a keen eye on in 2024.


Bumper fines

Let’s start a sweepstake on tobacco company fines.

Last year ended with British American Tobacco receiving a $110 million fine from Nigeria's national regulatory authority for a range of infringements of Nigerian law. Earlier in December they were ordered by a court in the Netherlands to pay a fine of $117 million for undeclared profit. This comes after a requirement earlier in the year to pay $635m to US authorities after violating sanctions against selling tobacco products to North Korea. That makes a grand total of $862m.

So will 2024 see BAT top that figure or keep the fines to the mere tens of millions? Send us your guesses and we’ll see in December who was closest.


Elections, elections, elections

This year will see an unprecedented 49% of the world’s population taking part in some form of national election. From the EU, to India, to the US and beyond voters will be going to the polls in dozens of countries.

Given the amount that they spend on lobbying, the tobacco industry has significant power to influence whoever voters choose to elect. How will we see that power played out? This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme is on industry interference and provides a chance to focus attention on the issue.


Long awaited tax updates

Looking beyond 2024 for a moment, we expect the revision of the EU’s Tobacco Tax Directive to be finalised in 2025. Taxation is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco consumption and this revision has been delayed since December 2022 so the update is eagerly awaited.


And finally, TCRG

In 2023, we published 21 papers covering areas from the engagement of diplomats with the tobacco industry to how the industry reacts to tax increases in African countries to the intimidation of researchers and advocates. We also welcomed over 300,000 visitors to our knowledge exchange platform TobaccoTactics.org.

We expect, in 2024, to publish more research into the actions of the industry and of the tobacco control community. And we are developing new ways to tell stories about our research. Sign up to our newsletter to keep informed.

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