Effective Article 5.3 Implementation

How can the state ensure the effective implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC?

While an answer to this question has many dimensions, effective implementation can be initiated by creating an environment for the right culture and values through administrative policies and programs. It is simply not enough to rely on codifying the general obligation in national law or having a code of conduct to build resistance to tobacco industry interference.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of having government officials understand the rationale behind tobacco industry interference and its impact on public health. Public officials and personnel must be able to build a culture of resistance against tobacco industry interference in order for them to consciously and continuously respond to and report evolving forms of tobacco industry interference, and recognize the tobacco industry’s various disguises and schemes.

Given the constant change in the government’s environment and administration, maintaining the tobacco industry-resistant culture poses a constant and continuing challenge. The recommendations under the Article 5.3 Guidelines can be categorized into provisions relating to:

  1. Raising awareness
  2. Developing policies for the state for purposes of:
    •  REJECTING PARTNERSHIPS with the tobacco industry
    • REQUIRING INFORMATION from the tobacco industry
  3. Developing POLICIES for PUBLIC OFFICIALS for purposes of:
    • PROHIBITING / LIMITING INTERACTION with the tobacco industry
  4. DENORMALIZING so-called CSR of tobacco companies

A. Establish a core group

Everything starts with a catalyst. Key persons or a core group must be willing to push forward with actively protecting public health from the vested and commercial interests of the tobacco industry, such as those who understand the issue the most, those working in tobacco control or public health, and/or those working on promoting transparency, integrity, and good governance.

In the Philippines, the core group members include high-level officials in the Department of Health (DOH), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and several NGOs. Other potential partners include the Ombudsman and anti-corruption agencies.

Because the scope of Article 5.3 is broad and affects agencies and offices other than the Ministry of Health, it is critical to identify key champions that belong to the legislative branches and other government agencies. Often, government agencies are not aware of their role in tobacco control unless they form part of an interagency committee or body on tobacco control. Hence, the Article 5.3 Guidelines create an opportunity to welcome new members into the customary “interagency” tobacco control groups. New members may include public service agencies, anti-corruption groups, licensing authorities, and others.

The multifarious nature of the recommendations under the Article 5.3 Guidelines requires the core group to select strategic areas to pursue and prioritize. Each recommendation suggests a list of measures that can be undertaken.

B. Develop a plan

Knowing exactly what needs to be done to counter tobacco industry interference requires a comprehensive plan with the right stakeholders. The challenge is to institutionalize a whole-of-government approach in implementing Article 5.3 of the FCTC. A structured plan can be developed in accordance with the pertinent recommendations of the Article 5.3 Guidelines.

C. Implement the action plan

Action plans can only be implemented if sufficient resources are allocated for the same. In the Philippines, the capacity of a core group of advocates was developed and the same core group proceeded to develop a strong policy on Article 5.3. After some time, the ministry of health set aside a seed grant for the CSC to raise awareness of the Article 5.3 policy (JMC). This resulted in several instances where tobacco industry interference was averted to give way to better public health measures and good governance practices.