Find below the links to the daily bulletins produced by FCA during COP8 (pdf format) with a few comments from my part. Thanks a lot to FCA for communicating about what happened.
Day 1 - October 1st
I am shocked by the decision to prevent the media to 'observe' the sessions because their presence could relay the influence of the tobacco industry (see page 3 with a headline about... transparency! ). How could just being present constitute an undue influence? Isn't that Orwellian that sessions closed to the public and the media are qualified as 'open' in the COP vocabulary?
Day 2 - October 2nd
See page 5 a short analysis of tobacco control programs in Africa. I'll keep point 3: "Secure sustainable domestic financing for tobacco control". I remember when the European Bureau of the WHO had suggested that 1% of tobacco taxes be affected to tobacco control. Can you look up what the budgets are? Are those data even collected?
Laurent Huber on page 6 writes about a human right to health. How does he reconcile this position with prohibiting smokers who want to switch from combustibles to electronic cigarettes, the right to do so?
On page 8, a report about how BAT opposes tobacco control legislation in Kenya in court and also by inviting legislators in luxurious hotels although apparently, this was not enough to prevent a majority of them to pass a new law. The article also reminds us that received an award as 'best employer' in Kenya.
Day 3 - October 3rd
This issue starts with the question 'Have you seen this delegate?" It implies that some delegates, in fact, represent the interest of the tobacco industry. Unfortunately, the article does not provide any name of any delegate or any country. Maybe if the media were allowed to report about what is happening they would be able to be a bit more precise? They are a bit on page 8 of the Day 4 Bulletin where the dirty ashtray is awarded to Guatemala and Honduras for attempting to derail the implementation of the FCTC.
On page 4, Mark Hurley of CTFK, presents the creation of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World as 'Big Tobacco latest Trick". In the end, he gives a link to the CTFK's page devoted to the Foundation after having criticized the report Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction. If you have questions about the Foundation or suggestions, why don't you send them to be discussed at the stakeholders meeting planned in London on November 13?
Day 4 - October 4
On page 1, Cassandra Morris presents the debate about Electronic cigarettes as 'inconclusive'. Her recommandation is to stop spending time on this issue. Is that realistic?
"Given that Parties — along with researchers, civil society, and policy makers — have staunchly held but divergent views, we recommend that Parties should refrain from engaging in lengthy and inconclusive discussion."
On page 5, an article about the importance of taking into account gender in tobacco control in Africa (in French). and on page 6, thoughts about how to help tobacco farmers switch to other crops.
Day 5 - October 5
On page 2 a piece about article 14 and offering help to quit. I think it's the only time I see cessation mentioned. Unfortunately "new" alternative to combustibles to deliver nicotine are not mentioned.
On page 8, an article about Africa and tobacco taxes.
I initially posted this cyber interview on my THR-rendezvous blog. It also belongs here.
Joseph Magero writes a blog called Tobacco Harm Reduction and he is active on Twitter.
Thank you, Joseph, for accepting our rendez-vous.
May I first ask you to introduce yourself by giving us a brief personal background about your journey in tobacco control and tobacco harm reduction?
Joseph Magero: I am a tobacco harm-reduction advocate based in Kenya.
Having been a smoker for over 15 years, I developed an interest in how people get addicted to smoking and how the industry operates. This is how I got introduced to tobacco control by my good friend, the late Dr.Frank Ashall
I am passionate about reducing tobacco caused death and disease. I did advocacy work for Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative since 2011, which also included digital advocacy. Our efforts were successful in getting stronger laws in Kenya and Uganda. Our advocacy efforts managed to get shisha banned both in Tanzania and Uganda. Our efforts in tobacco control however did not reduce the number of smokers, which was primarily my main concern. I discovered harm reduction in 2016 while doing my research on ways to curb the epidemic. What we were doing in Tobacco control had very minimal effect, we solely focused on taxes, no help was forthcoming for the smoker. Personally, I quit smoking with the help of vaping last year. Harm reduction is that practical for me since I experienced it.
Q1. You refer to Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative as an entity started by the late Dr Frank Ashall, you and a few other advocates. Can you tell us about what the organization achieved and what happened after Dr Ashall's death? Is ATFI still active today (I could not find any recent presence online)?
Joseph Magero: Dr.Frank Ashall was the founding Chairman of Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative. He together with I and a couple of more people formed the board members, but he was generally in charge of the organization. After he passed away, there was an AGM in which new leaders got elected. As I mentioned before, Africa Tobacco Free Initiative mostly was involved in Advocacy work. Some of the big achievements included getting shisha banned in Tanzania and Uganda. Also supporting advocacy work to get a strong bill passed in Kenya and Uganda too. Although I am not with ATFI anymore, I know that they are reorganizing to become more active, but yes, they do still exist.
Q2. What is your explanation for the attitude of the African tobacco control advocates toward harm reduction? Did you have any chance to discuss your position with anybody you used to work with?
Joseph Magero: Unfortunately, I have never got a chance to discuss my position officially with people I worked with because I was excommunicated without being given a chance to explain my stance. Tobacco control advocates in Africa simply do not want to listen to anything concerning harm-reduction. They do not understand this approach, neither do they want to incorporate it in the fight against smoking. The organizations that fund tobacco control advocacy in the region have strict rules. They frown upon harm reduction. It’s quite unfortunate that they treated me in this manner and went on to inform every other tobacco control advocate in the region not to associate with me.
Q3. In one post you write about the present lack of affordable e-cigarette devices in Africa. You say the product should not cost more than $10/15. Would that be cheap enough when it looks like many smokers in Africa buy by the stick? Is there already a market for African smokers with more income?
Joseph Magero: Indeed, a lot of smokers in Africa buy single stick cigarettes. That is true. But, due to raised taxes on cigarettes, the average smoker will spend between 10-15$ a month on cigarettes. I believe this could be a starting point. We already have some stores selling e-cigarettes, albeit very few. But, if vaping products could be made available at affordable rates, this would really benefit smokers here in Africa. For now, only a few smokers can afford e-cigs.
Q4. Considering the influence and quasi-exclusive funding of African tobacco control advocates by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Gates Foundation, can you imagine the growth of an independent tobacco harm reduction movement on the continent?
Joseph Magero: Of course. This is possible. We have seen such movement growing in other regions. This is what we are working towards at the moment.
Q5. What are your present priorities?
Joseph Magero: I do not oppose everything Tobacco control has accomplished in the region, I believe that harm reduction should be incorporated in the fight against smoking. My priorities are to see a reduction in the number of smokers in Africa and a reduction in the number of tobacco-related deaths in Africa.
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Joseph Magero: Yes. Safer alternatives are here. Let us embrace tobacco harm reduction in our fight against smoking. Other regions have done the same and are reaping benefits, we should not be left behind.
Thank you very much Joseph for having taken the time for this rendez-vous.