Derek Yach is a former executive director of the World Health Organisation NCDs (non communicable diseases). He writes in an opinion piece for the 10th anniversary of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control:
The earliest work of the FCTC involved demonizing the tobacco industry and cutting off contact with them. That was a successful and simple strategy at the time. But now we face new realities. Major multinationals are edging towards greater investments in innovative harm reduction products; and state monopolies led from China, Indonesia and India are poised to soon be the dominant manufacturers by volume of traditional tobacco products.
Implementation of the FCTC will be tougher as state monopolies’ power grows – as it is in the very countries where prevalence remains extremely high or increasing. …
Multinationals seek predictability and respectability. The FCTC gave them the first and harm reduction may give them the second. There is no example of a legal consumer goods sector being regulated out of existence. There are many examples though of how entire industrial sectors can shift from being damaging to the environment or health to being less damaging through the use of innovative technologies, smart regulations, consumer pressure and constant media voice.
In my observations of public health lobby groups, they tend to be divided into two types. The first are those who just hate the companies involved in the industry they are targeting (gambling, alcohol, tobacco etc) and they devote all their energies to demonising the companies and industry.
The second are more focused on harm reduction, and will support any good initiative to reduce harm – regardless of where they come from.
It is interesting that a very senior former global health official is suggesting the former approach is no longer sensible, and they should focus on the latter. I think he is right.