Tobacco control, global health policy and development: towards policy coherence in global governance

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Abstract

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) demonstrates the international political will invested in combating the tobacco pandemic and a newfound prominence for tobacco control within the global health agenda. However, major difficulties exist in managing conflicts with foreign and trade policy priorities, and significant obstacles confront efforts to create synergies with development policy and avoid tensions with other health priorities. This paper uses the concept of policy coherence to explore congruence and inconsistencies in objectives, policy, and practice between tobacco control and trade, development and global health priorities. Following the inability of the FCTC negotiations to satisfactorily address the relationship between trade and health, several disputes highlight the challenges posed to tobacco control policies by multilateral and bilateral agreements. While the work of the World Bank has demonstrated the potential contribution of tobacco control to development, the absence of non-communicable diseases from the Millennium Development Goals has limited scope to offer developing countries support for FCTC implementation. Even within international health, tobacco control priorities may be hard to reconcile with other agendas. The paper concludes by discussing the extent to which tobacco control has been pursued via a model of governance very deliberately different from those used in other health issues, in what can be termed ‘tobacco exceptionalism’. The analysis developed here suggests that non-communicable disease (NCD) policies, global health, development and tobacco control would have much to gain from re-examining this presumption of difference.

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