Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

First Meeting on 12-13 October 2000 in Geneva, Switzerland

In the summer of 2000, the then Director-General, Dr Brundtland, acting on the recommendation from the February 2000 Oslo conference, established the WHO Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation (SACTob). Dr Brundtland established SACTob to provide sound scientific advice to WHO and its Member States on how best to address the regulatory conundrums now facing policy-makers at the national level, and to provide background material for the negotiators of the WHO FCTC. It was proposed that the Committee give priority to implementing the recommendations of the Oslo meeting.

The establishment of SACTob provided WHO with a foundation on which to build scientific expertise in a technical area that WHO had theretofore not specifically addressed. With the disclosure of the previously secret tobacco industry documents in the 1990s, it was possible to understand the industry's research and arguments relating to tobacco product regulation. This information provided WHO with another important reason for the establishment of SACTob: to equip countries with the scientific evidence base to counter the industry's claims.

SACTob met for the first time in Geneva on 12–13 October 2000 to begin discussing the issues relevant to the use of tobacco. Specifically, it was stated that a wide variety of forms of tobacco use currently exist: cigarettes, bidis, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, pan, snuff, and others. Health advocates are concerned because it seems that inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information is systematically disseminated to consumers regarding their choice of tobacco products. For example, new so-called ‘less hazardous’ products such as Eclipse®, Accord® and Advance® are already available on the US market. Products like these tend to obscure the fact that nicotine, in any form, is a dangerous and addictive substance. Even nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) marketed for ‘harm reduction’ may be misleading because it is not clear to consumers that they should only be used as a step toward cessation.

SACTob’s own mission and terms of reference were also discussed, emphasizing in particular the need to define important vocabulary and present an organized critique of different testing methods for tobacco ingredients and emissions.