The 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) took place in February 2024. Members of the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) at the University of Bath attended the event; TCRG has had observer status since the 9th WHO FCTC COP.

TCRG members who monitored COP10 from Panamá and the UK have written an editorial for Health Promotion International. The editorial covers what we observed regarding the activities of the tobacco industry, industry front groups, and other organisations. Read on for some highlights.

What was achieved at COP10?

COP10 was the first in-person WHO FCTC conference since 2018 due partly to deferrals owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, so there was much to be discussed.

There was a packed agenda, but progress was achieved on most items. This includes decisions being reached on issues such as environment, human rights, corporate liability and cross-border advertising.

What was not achieved?

A decision on an item regarding Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC was deferred to the next COP. Article 9 deals with regulating the content of tobacco products and Article 10 concerns the disclosure of tobacco product information. There are worries that this delay could work in favour of the tobacco industry which tends to put profits first and foremost.

Why were decisions delayed?

At every WHO FCTC COP, the Global Alliance for Tobacco Control (GATC, formerly FCA), a global network  of civil society organisations working towards an accelerated WHO FCTC implementation, publicly names Parties identified as frustrating the decision-making process each day and COP10 was no exception.

The countries that were called out during COP10 were generally those that were ranked in the lower half of the latest Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index. This global survey, which TCRG produces the UK chapter for, ranks how well governments protect public health policies. These lower ranked countries may experience higher levels of tobacco industry interference and may not have sufficient the safeguards in place required to protect public health from the actions of the tobacco industry.

How did tobacco industry-linked organisations get involved?

Both in the run to COP10 and during, there was activity from ‘front groups‘ – organisations set up and funded by the tobacco industry. Crucially, these groups are often not transparent about their funding sources and their links to industry.

Although WHO FCTC rules prohibit these groups from attending the WHO FCTC COP, some of them did travel to Panamá.

Ways in which these groups attempted to disrupt the conference proceedings included encouraging the public to lobby their national delegations, arguing that they should be allowed to participate in COP10 and attempting to discredit World Health Organization scientific claims.

In addition to directly industry funded font groups, there was also noise from other organisations which claim to represent the interests of ‘consumers’ or ‘taxpayers’.

So, what did we learn?

There are three main things that we learnt from our observations were:

  • Ensuring full implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC remains key. Article 5.3 requires Parties to protect public health policy from the influence of the tobacco industry. Civil society and Parties need to collaborate to monitor and counter industry interference.
  • It is becoming more difficult to clearly identify links between the tobacco industry and other organisations. As industry interference becomes increasingly covert, more sophisticated monitoring is required including wider collaboration with journalists and those monitoring, researching and exposing the conduct of other health-harming industries.
  • While industry-linked and other organisations will use their platforms to create ‘noise’, this is not necessarily effective. As the authors conclude: “It is [...] vital that advocates and researchers are not distracted by the noise, but keep the focus firmly on the industry, its tactics and its ultimate goals.”


For further information on any of the points above, read the full editorial here.

For more information on this editorial, read more on – TCRG Editorial: observations on industry activities around COP10.

For more information on TCRG attendance at COP10, read our previous blog - The COP you haven’t heard of.

For general information on WHO FCTC, read these articles –

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control;

COP & MOP; and

Interference around COP 10 & MOP 3.

Posted in: Events, Government, Industry tactics, Lobbying, Public health, Public policy, Tobacco Tactics