Oral statement | Action on Smoking and Health | January 31, 2023
To protect future generations from the environmental, health and other burdens of plastic pollution.
The objective should be simple and avoid qualifiers such as “in accordance with domestic or international law” or “without undue encumbrance on economic activity.” Such caveats, if desired by Members of the Committee, can be laid out in other sections.
Core obligations, control measures and voluntary approaches
The production of plastic materials or products that are problematic, single-use, toxic and unnecessary should be banned outright. The consummate example is cigarette filters, which are made of plastic (cellulose acetate), do not mitigate the health impacts of smoking, hence they are unnecessary and end up discarded into the environment at the rate of 4.5 trillion annually despite being deadly to marine life.
Recycling cigarette filters is not an option, industry voluntary measures have not made a difference to the volume of discarded cigarette filters and the threat they pose to the environment and the so-called ‘biodegradable’ filters would not be a viable form of harm reduction, as these would continue to cause significant environmental contamination from tobacco products.
In addition, the companies responsible for creating the problem should not be considered as stakeholders equal to those organizations that are trying to stop it. It is crucial to recognize the inherent conflict of interest and avoid their interference in policy making.
One conflict of interest model that must be considered as an example for all industries is Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Furthermore, this article recognizes the inherent conflict of interest between public health and the tobacco industry and requires Parties to exclude the industry from policymaking hence tobacco industry should also be excluded from the negotiations of this important treaty.
Finally, we urge the Members of the Committee to ground these negotiations in human rights norms. Plastic pollution is a threat to many internationally agreed upon rights, including the rights to health, life, a healthy environment, and development.