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The Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (or COP9), the biennial tobacco control conference hosted by the World Health Organization, has officially been postponed due to coronavirus.

The postponement, announced on the WHO FCTC website earlier this week, came after the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties met with both the host country of and Convention Secretariat, Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo.

“In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on the conduct of international global conferences and travel,” the Bureaus stated, “[we] have decided that convening the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (COP9), scheduled for November 2020, is no longer possible.”

The organization also announced the postponement of the Second Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, which was scheduled for the week following COP9.

In May 2003, the World Health Assembly ratified the first modern-day global public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or FCTC. Every two years, the WHO and delegates from the FCTC’s 181 member-nations gather at an event called the Conference of Parties to discuss the suggested policy measures designed to further the treaty’s mission.

While this type of international cooperation is typically heralded as a positive, the lack of transparency at these conferences is deeply troubling. At the 2018 COP8 in Geneva, Switzerland the WHO changed the rules for public entry without warning and banned the media from attending critical discussions and deliberations that result in new legislation, regulations, and taxes that have both physical and economic implications for nearly everyone on the planet.

As we reported earlier this month, many countries follow the WHO’s guidance on policy related to cigarettes and tobacco that come out of this conference, even though the organization has failed to make tobacco harm reduction a part of their suggested tobacco control policy for almost two decades, despite scientific evidence proving it’s impact.

The organization stated that both conferences would convene in November 2021 in The Hague, Netherlands.

Photo Credit: Alireza Parpaei

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