The World Health Organization Regional office for Africa, with support from the government of Norway held a Regional Consultation on Tobacco and Trade in Windhoek from 4 to 6 February.
The objectives of the consultations are to present current issues and challenges on tobacco and trade, to discuss current controversies on tobacco and trade including specific cases of the tobacco industry attempting to derail tobacco control on the basis of international trade and to identify collaborative action points for the health and trade sectors to ensure that public health is prioritized in current and future investment treaties and trade agreements.
Before the consultations the WHO said ministries of health face many constraints in dealing with tobacco and trade related issues. There is an increasing concern that the tobacco industry is behind allegation that some aspects of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) contradict international trade policies. This seems to be a shift in the tobacco industry's strategy in the era of the WHO FCTC.
Over the recent decades, trade in tobacco products has rapidly expanded with the liberalization of international trade. This increase has led to a corresponding rise in tobacco consumption acroos low and middle income countries. The phenomenon highlights the need to monitor the intersection between international trade agreements and the tobacco control policies enshrined in the World Health Organization Framework Conve on Tobacco Control.