ASH Scotland “deeply disappointed” by Holyrood committee’s disregard for global health treaty

21 May 2024

ASH Scotland is raising grave concerns about the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee giving Big Tobacco industry influenced organisations an opportunity to impact health policy development through participation in an evidence session on Tuesday 21 May in contravention of a global healthy treaty.

The leading Scottish health charity contends that the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) involvement in the Committee’s scrutiny of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill legislative consent memorandum runs contrary to Scotland’s long-standing position of supporting the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 to which the UK is a signatory, and which the Scottish Government has committed to upholding since 2013.

WHO describes tobacco industry interests as ‘fundamentally and irreconcilably opposed’ to the aims of public health’ and, under FCTC Article 5.3, they and their vested or commercial interests are permitted to be engaged only after health policies have been fully developed and engagement should be limited to the extent necessary to implement regulations.

ASH Scotland urged the Committee to withdraw the invitations to UKVIA and SGF, and pointed out that a House of Commons’ Committee did not permit the UKVIA to participate in its oral evidence sessions scrutinising the Tobacco and Vapes Bill on 30 April or 1 May.

From when it was established in 2016 until September 2023, UKVIA’s membership consisted of small independent e-cigarette manufactures and the four major tobacco companies: Japan Tobacco International (JTI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI) and Imperial Tobacco. It still retains tobacco industry linked members such as the part industry-owned JUUL, and the SGF. SGF lists Japan Tobacco International (JTI); Philip Morris International (PMI); British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Brands as corporate members, as well as tobacco industry owned e-cigarette brands.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said: “The failure of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee to follow WHO guidelines is deeply disappointing and sends a troubling signal that our democratic processes for developing progressive health policies are open to interference by the tobacco industry’s business associates. There is a risk that this decision will be manipulated internationally by the tobacco industry to help justify their claims to be treated as valid public health stakeholders.

“Allowing profit-motivated tobacco corporations’ vested interests to participate in the Committee’s deliberations undermines Scotland’s commitment to shutting out Big Tobacco’s capability to distort public health debates and disrupt or delay much-needed regulation of addictive health-harming products.

“This matters for the health and wellbeing of current and future generations of our children growing up in Scotland, and especially ahead of World No Tobacco Day on 31 May when WHO will put an international spotlight on protecting children from tobacco industry interference.”