Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Second Meeting on 31 January - 2 February 2001 in Atlanta, USA

The second meeting of SACTob was held in Atlanta, USA from 31 January to 2 February 2001. The first substantive point in the agenda involved follow-up from the first meeting of the Committee. The Committee was reminded that it would serve as a liaison between the tobacco industry and the WHO secretariat, emphasizing that their contact with the industry was not necessarily in conflict of interest with their work as part of the WHO. It was agreed that presentations from tobacco companies would not always be needed as information could be collected through other means such as written requests and questions. The revised mission statement was discussed in detail with a final consensus that it would be kept as a working document in need of further restructuring and clarification.

Some members cautioned that tobacco companies might like to market new products as sanctioned by the health community. With this in mind, special care should be taken to ensure that tobacco companies take responsibility for conventional products and that no endorsements of new products are issued without clear evidence that they are less harmful to health.

A fair amount of time was spent on topics related to the International Organization for Standards (ISO). In this segment, there were several short presentations followed by a discussion of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and ISO testing methods. The Canadian Government’s testing regime was identified as one that involves both standard testing and intense smoking conditions. Although the Canadian government has so far focused on the chemical profiling of tobacco products, in the future it will also examine toxicological, biological and epidemiological aspects. Test methods in Massachusetts, USA were described by one member as midway between ISO and Canadian test methods. A brief case study on Eclipse®, marketed by RJ Reynolds Tobacco since 1996, prefaced the discussion on the appropriateness and application of current ISO tests.

A dialogue developed about whether changes should be made to the standard test methods to account for the use of vents by manufacturers. A distinction was made between information needed for government purposes and the way in which risks should be communicated to consumers. For example, even if some cigarettes produce a lower nicotine or tar yield during testing, labelling them as ‘mild’, ‘light’, or ‘low tar’ may have the net effect of resulting in more people smoking because consumers interpret these labels not as technical descriptors but as implying health benefits. The contents and purpose of a regulatory framework were discussed, with the aim of coordinating and encouraging the introduction of more accurately marketed products.