Tribuna Article
Pubblicato: 2024-05-10

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Expectations and outcomes of the Tenth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP10)

Editor Associazione Italiana di Epidemiologia (AIE)
Laboratorio di Ricerca sugli Stili di Vita, Dipartimento di Epidemiologia Medica, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri” IRCCS, Milano

What is COP10

The Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [1] was held in Panama from February 5-10, 2024. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the most important international health treaty, signed by 183 countries (the Parties to the Convention), where 90 percent of the global population lives. The Convention commits the Parties to it to implement effective and agreed control policies.

At the COP, the Parties agree on the progress of the Convention and the actions needed to promote its effective implementation. The COP may adopt protocols and amend the Convention, establish subsidiary bodies, and establish working or expert groups with a mandate to develop guidelines and recommendations to implement the provisions of the treaty.

Organizational work is carried out by a Secretariat based at WHO that is supported by centers of expertise and working groups. This type of Governance has so far enabled the progress of the Convention that has helped the Parties to compare and adopt effective and enforceable measures.

Evaluation of effectiveness is the subject of scientific research that collects empirical evidence. Implementation of Convention measures is in the hands of Governments, which is why Parties must negotiate, share and decide which policies to adopt. Collaboration between science and institutions is a key factor in the success or failure of the Convention.

The work agenda for COP10 in Panama

The COP10 agenda was challenging, with some crucial issues for tobacco regulation.

  1. The regulation and disclosure of the contents of tobacco products. According to Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention, tobacco manufacturers must disclose the contents of their products to governments, but enforcement is lacking [5].
  2. Tobacco advertising in entertainment media including digital media. According to Article 13 all forms of tobacco product advertising should be banned, but through various contrivances the bans are circumvented, particularly for novel products and in digital media [6].
  3. Novel and emerging tobacco products. The Convention should provide guidance on these products [7].
  4. Other issues under discussion. Additional tobacco control measures; legal liability-civil and criminal-of manufacturers; improved information systems; synergies between tobacco control and promotion of human rights, and also between tobacco control and environmental protection.

Tobacco industry interference to boycott COP10

The tobacco industry, which sees its business compromised by the progress of the Convention, argues that WHO is taking an ideological and prohibitionist approach. The industry contrasts tobacco regulation with the strategy of replacing cigarette consumption with novel non-combustion tobacco products, which, while fueling nicotine addiction, are allegedly less harmful.

Tobacco industry representatives have tried to contact some countries by offering support and advice to their delegations [8]. In some countries, industry lobbies to change the composition of delegations to increase the weight of economic ministries and reduce the weight of the Ministry of Health.

In Italy, there was an initial activation of the economic ministries when it came to composing the delegation for COP10. At the last moment, inexplicably, it was preferred to participate with just an observer. According to some press organs, this choice was motivated by the government’s desire to keep its hands free so that it could then boycott any European Union decisions contrary to industry.

On the level of the debate of ideas, the industry is supporting front groups and third parties who are advocating the substitution strategy they call “harm reduction” [9].

Even in Italy, where there is a research center devoted entirely to “harm reduction”, funded by millions of euros by a foundation set up by Philip Morris [10], a campaign based on open letters signed by self-proclaimed tobacco experts and cleverly oriented press articles has been carried on. To subvert WHO’s work, the galaxy of front groups around the world that support industry positions went so far as to organize, in the same city and on the same days as COP10, a kind of alternative conference called “Good COP” that countered the real WHO Conference [11].

COP10 results

COP10 was a success in terms of the participation of delegations of about a thousand delegates representing as many as 142 Parties who made the following decisions.

  1. With reference to Article 13 of the Convention regulating all forms of tobacco advertising, additional guidelines on tobacco in entertainment media, including new digital media, were approved.
  2. At Brazil’s proposal, pursuant to Article 18 of the Convention, the COP recognized the magnitude of the environmental damage caused by tobacco. The decision urges Parties to take into account the environmental impacts of growing, producing, consuming and disposing of tobacco product wastes, particularly filters (Figure 1) and electronic devices [12].
  3. At Canada’s proposal, the COP decided to establish a committee of experts to consider forward-looking policies, referring to Article 2.1 of the Convention. According to this article, the provisions of the Convention compose a basic set of tobacco control measures, but countries may experiment with and adopt additional measures that aim at tobacco endgame.
  4. At the proposal of Iran and other Parties, referring to Article 19 of the Convention, which deals with the civil and criminal responsibilities of the industry, a panel of experts was established to help Parties use the laws to take legal action against the tobacco industry.
  5. The COP recognized the link between human rights and tobacco control, an agenda item that had been delayed since 2018.
  6. The terms of the Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control 2019-2025 have been extended to 2030 in order to align the Convention with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which also includes the goal of enhancing the implementation of the Convention.
  7. Changes in information systems were also decided to improve the quality of data on the implementation of the Convention and increase the efficiency of collection.
  8. At the proposal of the host state, the Declaration of Panama was adopted, which, emphasizing the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and the interests of public health, calls on governments to be consistent so that all sectors, not just health, protect policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.

No decisions were made on the regulation of novel tobacco products.

In conclusion, thanks to these positive results, achieved at such a well-attended conference, the Convention has been strengthened. On the other hand, the enemies of tobacco control, the tobacco industry and its allies, are becoming increasingly fierce and, cleverly interfering in countries’ tobacco policies, are trying to subvert the Convention in order to continue selling their additive and harmful products.

Figures and tables

Figure 1.The environmental impact of cigarettes butts12.


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  10. Tobacco Tactics. University of Bath. Centre of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR). 2023.
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  12. Slaughter E, Gersberg RM, Watanabe K. Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tob Control. 2011; 20:i25-9. Publisher Full Text


Paolo D’Argenio

Editor Associazione Italiana di Epidemiologia (AIE)

Silvano Gallus

Laboratorio di Ricerca sugli Stili di Vita, Dipartimento di Epidemiologia Medica, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri” IRCCS, Milano

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