Tobacco product regulation
Tobacco is one of the few openly available commercial products that is virtually unregulated in terms of its contents and emissions. At the same time, it is the only legally available product that kills up to one half of its regular users when consumed as recommended by its manufacturer. In light of this, tobacco product regulation, which includes regulating the contents and emissions of tobacco products via testing, mandating the disclosure of the test results, and regulating the packaging and labelling of tobacco products, is a pillar of any comprehensive tobacco control programme.
The regulation of tobacco products is encompassed within a set of provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that target the manufacture and distribution of tobacco products:
Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
These provisions are the result of the consensus view that the regulation of tobacco products serves public health goals. Additionally, these provisions imply the need for an objective, science-based approach to the implementation of the articles of the WHO Framework Convention.
To address the issue of product regulation, the Director-General established the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) in 2003. The group, which includes leading scientists in the field, carries out research and drafts recommendations for WHO's Member States on the issue of establishing regulatory frameworks for the design and manufacture of tobacco products. In addition, the WHO Tobacco Laboratory Network (TobLabNet) was established in line with the aims and objectives of the WHO FCTC tobacco product regulation provisions and following the recommendations of TobReg. Its objectives are primarily to establish global tobacco testing and research capacity to test tobacco products for regulatory compliance, to research and validate harmonized standards for contents and emissions testing, to share tobacco research and testing standards and results, to inform risk assessment activities related to the use of tobacco products, and to develop harmonized reporting of such results so that data can be transformed into meaningful trend information that can be compared across countries and over time.
Both TobReg and TobLabNet contribute to the WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties Working Group on Articles 9 and 10 as it continues to work on the establishment of implementation guidelines for the Parties to the treaty.
Collectively, WHO's coordinated approach to product regulation aims to address the most effective and evidence-based means in order to fill regulatory gaps in tobacco control, and to establish global tobacco testing and research capacity to test tobacco products for regulatory compliance.