Dr. Eduardo Bianco, Director of International Policy Education in Addiction for the Addiction Professionals Training Program at the Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health (the Frank Foundation) recently participated in the first (of five) Intergovernmental Negotiating Conference (INC-1) of the United Nations treaty to end plastics pollution. This meeting was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay from November 28 – December 3, 2022.
Dr. Bianco was approached by representatives of Action of Smoking and Health (ASH US) and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) to participate in this meeting as a volunteer member of ASH. His preparation for this meeting included the launch of a global network: Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA) which includes member organizations from different parts of the world.
The ultimate plan of the INC meetings is to approve a final text which will be handed over to the UN Environmental Assembly for adoption, following which it will be opened for signatures and ratification by individual countries. To this end, a major goal of the negotiations at this first meeting was to ensure that cigarette filters and toxic cigarette butts from used cigarettes are included in lists of banned single-use plastics. Discussions also involved advocacy for the exclusion of the tobacco industry and other parties that may have an inherent conflict of interest from being included as “stakeholders.” The basis of this exclusion of the tobacco industry was WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Article 5.3.
The negotiations at the meeting also sought to highlight the magnitude of the filter problem, as many delegates present at the meeting were unaware of the risks posed by them. The delegates were sensitized about the fact that cigarette filters contain plastic in the form of fibers of cellulose acetate polymer with a plasticizer.
Following extensive discussions, tobacco filters were widely seen as “the perfect example of a single use plastic that ought to be banned, problematic and unnecessary*.” The meeting was successfully able to set the stage, adopt rules of procedure, and provide an overall concept of what the eventual treaty will comprise of. In this regard, Dr. Bianco described the meeting as well worth the effort to participate and indicated that he looks forward to promoting the elimination of cigarette filters as one of the Tobacco Endgame strategies.
As the INC progresses, we will continue to share updates.