Health Groups: “Protect UN/ SDGs from Tobacco Industry”

July 20 2019

On 19 July 2019, Stopping Tobacco Organizations & Products (STOP) , a global watchdog, joined the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) in  issuing a letter asking the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) to reject a note that sought a role for the tobacco industry in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda).

The letter  pointed out that a relationship between the UN system and the tobacco industry threatens the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is in direct conflict with international law, as provided in Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which states that “Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.”

The letter explains that the exclusion of the tobacco industry stems from its long-standing history of interfering with the implementation of tobacco control policies through lobbying, legal action and intimidation…a sharp critique of a memo issued on 28 June 2019 by the outgoing Director General of the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG), Michael Møller, to the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, regarding the possible role for the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda. In his note, Mr. Møller questioned the exclusion of the tobacco industry from contact with the UN system, “vis-à-vis the goal of the SDGs to ‘not leave anyone behind’”, adding that “a blanket exclusion of the entire tobacco industry… may be counterproductive to our ambition to deliver the 2030 Agenda”. In conclusion, he called for “considering a more nuanced approach by the UN system vis-à-vis the tobacco industry”.

Notably, the UN has been progressively moving towards removing tobacco industry linkages In 2013, UNDP adopted a policy on due diligence and partnerships with the private sector, setting out exclusionary criteria outlining the business practices considered unacceptable to the organization such as the manufacture, sale or distribution of tobacco or tobacco products. In 2017, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) endorsed a model policy for UN agencies to adopt on preventing tobacco industry interference. In 2017, a UN initiative on connecting private sector commitments toward sustainable development, UN Global Compact,  delisted companies engaged in the manufacture or production of tobacco products , following a review of its policy on integrity. Early this year, the WHO, a UN Agency, emphasized their rules of engagement with private sector, stating that it does not deal with the tobacco industry and “those representing its interests;” clarifying that this includes entities funded by tobacco companies like the Philip Morris International (PMI)-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW). WHO then reiterated its 2017 message which calls for governments not to partner with the PMI-funded FSFW. UN members have also documented their sentiments about the tobacco industry: In 2011, at the UN High-Level Meeting (UNHLM), the UN General Assembly adopted the political declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCD), in which they expressly recognized the “fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health”.


Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) aims to address the single greatest obstacle to tobacco control, tobacco industry interference. It is a joint initiative of the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and has been designated as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat as the Knowledge Hub on Article 5.3, (treaty provision on countering tobacco industry interference).  GGTC is also a key partner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP).



  1. Joint Letter to the UN Secretary General RE: Role of the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  2. UNDP Policy on due diligence and partnerships with the private sector
  3. UN ECOSOC Resolution endorsing the model policy on preventing tobacco industry interference, which it encouraged UN agencies to adopt
  4. UN Global Compact delisting the tobacco industry from its participants
  5. WHO reiterates rejection of collaboration with FSFW and
  6. WHO FTC Secretariat Statement rejecting FSFW
  7. UN High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly political declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs