The World Conference on Tobacco or Health has brought many new ideas, giving renewed impetus to the work of The only drawback was that the conference declaration failed to make an important statement of solidarity towards tobacco farmers.

The fifteenth World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) took place in Singapore between the 20th and 24th of March 2012. Thanks to your donations our colleague Laura Graen was able to attend the conference as a delegate of, giving two presentations.

Malawi and the exhibition “Big Tobacco”

In her first presentation, held on the 21st  March, Laura Graen drew attention to the precarious situation of  workers on tobacco plantations in Malawi. About 300,000 to 500,000 so-called tenants live and work there under slave-like conditions. The presentation aimed to gain the support of health and tobacco control advocates for the cause of tobacco workers.

“The tobacco industry causes poverty at both the beginning and end of the supply chain. Only those in the middle of the chain – the tobacco companies themselves – make profits,” said Laura Graen during her presentation.

In her second lecture, held on the 23rd March, our delegate explained the experience we have made with our poster exhibition  “Big Tobacco” and our recent social media work (Facebook, Twitter). The audience showed great interest in the exhibition and the effect it had on young people. Contacts built with new partner organisations may even lead to the translation of some of our education material into English.

Human rights: a major topic at the conference

Human rights was an important theme, running throughout many of the main conference events. It was the focus of the meeting of the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network (HRTCN). The main topic at the HRTCN meeting were the so-called “shadow reports”.

Tobacco cultivation and consumption are often associated with human rights violations: the high number of children working on tobacco plantations (violation of the prohibition of child labour in hazardous activities) or the lack of protection of non-smokers (violation of the right to health) are two examples of this. According to many of the participants present at the main conference and the HRTCN-meeting, these themes ought to appear frequently in future shadow reports.

Conference declaration lacks reference to child labour

At the end of the WCToH, conference organisers read out the conference declaration. The statement’s final recommendation advises that:

“11 All countries include specifics on tobacco consumption in their reports to the Committee for the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Which are cited in the preamble of the WHO FCTC. “

With great disappointment we noted that whilst the conference draws a close connection between tobacco control and human rights, it nonetheless failed to refer to the violation of human rights in tobacco production. The cultivation of tobacco around the world is characterised by the use of child labour, lack of maternity protection, slave-like working conditions, etc. The conference has failed to demonstrate this relationship, and thereby failed to win over new allies for the fight against the tobacco industry.

A big thank you for your donations!

Our participation at the World Conference was entirely funded by your donations. Thank you for your great support helping strengthen its international network.