An internal United Nations document that appears to question an existing ban on tobacco company engagement with the UN is raising a few eyebrows, following its publication by journalist Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy.
The memo from Michael Møller, the outgoing director of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), was directed to UN Secretary General António Guterres on June 28. Møller is succeeded by Tatiana Valovaya of Russia and said in the document that he is sharing the memo insights with his successor.
Before leaving, though, he addressed the tobacco-industry ban and suggested a more inclusive approach might work better if the world is to achieve its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Møller is clear in acknowledging the public health implications of tobacco use, an epidemic that kills 8 million people each year according to the World Health Organization.
Yet some 1.1 billion people will continue to use tobacco by 2025 despite reduction efforts, or work in tobacco-related jobs, as smoking rates are expected to rise in Congo Brazzaville, Sierra Leone and other African nations. So Møller sees a role for the industry itself in attaining a broader definition of the SDGs while using what he calls a more nuanced approach.
“The DG of WHO has made it clear that he is bound by the decision of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to totally exclude the tobacco industry from any contact with the UN system,” said Møller, referring to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “However, the policy question remains as to the appropriateness of this ban.”
To view the complete Møller letter, check this link.