You will probably have heard of the Climate Change COP, an annual meeting of the signatories to the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But have you heard of the Tobacco Control COP? And did you know that colleagues from the University will be attending the conference in Central America this month?

What is the Tobacco Control COP?

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is a biennial meeting of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The WHO FCTC was developed to protect public health from the tobacco epidemic in a cooperative and global manner.

The conference, which we expect around 2000 people to attend from more than 180 countries, is an opportunity for delegations from around the globe to come together to discuss tobacco control and influence international policy. You will eventually see the results of steps taken at this conference in your local corner shop. However, the tobacco industry would prefer that that not happen.

After COP finishes, the Meeting of Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (MOP) will begin. Illicit tobacco trade undermines tobacco control as it increases access to tobacco products, often making them available at lower costs than if purchased legally. At the MoP, Parties to the Protocol will be working together on strategies to counter illicit trade in tobacco products, including strengthening tobacco tracking and tracing efforts and discussing other measures to secure the supply chain.

Why should I care?

What happens at COP directly affects tobacco control policy here in the UK. From the health warnings on packets, to shutters on display counters and the taxes charged on tobacco, decisions made at COP eventually filter down to our everyday life.

We know that the tobacco industry will attempt to infiltrate and influence the proceedings at COP so that decisions are not made that would have a negative impact on their profits. In order for the WHO FCTC to have the widest possible positive impact on global public health, tobacco industry interference must be eliminated.

How is the University of Bath involved?

The University's Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) is one of only two UK NGOs to be accredited as official observers to the COP/MOP. Alongside Cancer Research UK, TCRG will be attending the conference to monitor the proceedings. TCRG will observe the negotiations and make note of any lobbying attempts from the industry.

Having official observer status is an acknowledgement of the huge contribution that TCRG have made to tobacco control efforts globally for over a decade. These include influencing the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products, evaluating legislation designed to reduce the effects of second-hand smoke and creating a vast knowledge exchange platform containing invaluable information and data on the tobacco industry and its allies.

At the conference, TCRG will collaborate with other international organisations such as Global Alliance for Tobacco Control and use the conference as an opportunity to promote their work. They will be running a side event along with US-based Tobacco-Free Kids and global public health organisation Vital Strategies on the growth of marketing of tobacco products on social media platforms.

How do I find out more?

TCRG will be sharing updates on their experiences at COP/MOP. To stay up to date with what the team is getting up to, follow them on X (Twitter) and LinkedIn.