BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 09 (IPS) – The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-2), held in Paris, France, from May 29 to June 02, 2023, concluded with optimism and the prospect of ending plastic pollution. More than 700 delegates from 169 Member States agreed to prepare a draft agreement before the third session in November this year.
Among the most important and interesting debates, the health advocates present at the negotiations reported that it was essential to discuss “how to categorize the thousands of types of plastics, chemical precursors and products in a way that enables a cohesive approach to ending plastic pollution.
Some preferred to focus on chemical precursors, eliminating the most toxic and polluting”, while others recognized that not all types of plastic could be recycled or reinvented, and that certain plastics such as cigarettes were to disappear forever.
Léonce Sessou, speaking on behalf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Corporate Accountability (CA), African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and other members of the Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA), urged Member States to align the future legally binding instrument on plastics with the public health goal of ending the tobacco epidemic, to which most have already committed via the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Tobacco control groups, for example, called for elimination cigarette filters. They drew attention to the fact that cigarette butts are among the most prevalent forms of plastic pollution on the planet and harm terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
They reminded delegates align human rights and health treaties, in particular WHO FCTC, and make the tobacco industry pay for its legacy pollution and waste. The WHO FCTC health treaty aims to reduce tobacco supply and demand and protect health policy by excluding the tobacco industry from policy meetings.
According to a WHO report which called for a ban on cigarette filters, an estimated 4.5 trillion discarded filters (butts) from the nearly six trillion cigarettes consumed worldwide end up in the environment each year.
They are the first waste collected on the coasts and in urban areas. Cigarette filters are small enough to be ingested by marine animals, and when these plastic filters break down, they release thousands of microplastic particles.
Microplastics have been detected in commercial seafood, other food products, drinking water and human tissue; this contamination is a threat to food safety and security.
Research shows that cigarette butts are a source of microplastic contamination that creates chemical pollution (due to toxic chemicals found in tobacco products) that leaches into the environment. Leachate from cigarette butts has been found to harm various forms of aquatic organisms, including major food sources for fish and shellfish.
Experts agree that banning cigarette filters is the best solution to this problem of plastic and toxic waste. Cleanups, anti-litter legislation and redesigning filters for recyclability or biodegradability have not worked and are not viable solutions.
For at least five decades, the tobacco industry has known that cigarette filters provide no health benefits; instead, they make cigarettes hotter, release more nicotine, and increase addiction.
Yet they have misled smokers into believing that filters make cigarettes “safer”. As awareness of smoking increased, the tobacco industry made advertisements for filter cigarettes more appealing to allay smokers’ concerns.
Advocates attending INC-2 reported many misunderstandings related to cigarette filters that have yet to be resolved. In his Blog on Day 5 of negotiations, ASH said, “A lot of people, not just smokers, assume that filters make cigarettes safer rather than more dangerous.”
Many countries already have a national policy banning single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws and cotton swabs, but have inadvertently cigarette filters not included. However, advocates speaking to government delegates found widespread support for a cigarette filter ban.
As the possibility of a cigarette filter ban grows, the tobacco industry’s public relations (PR) machinery is already in motion to implement beach clean-up and fundraising activities. cigarette butts as part of its corporate social responsibility. programs (CSR) worldwide.
Ahead of the resumption of the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-3) in Nairobi in November, governments must remember that the tobacco industry is not a stakeholder but a polluter who must be held responsible for the myriad damage it has caused as well as continues to harm human health and the environment.
On 100 non-governmental STPA health organizations, as well as other environmental groups such as Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Ecowaste Coalition, Break Free From Plastic (BFFP), Ban Toxics (Philippines), Our Sea of East Asia Network (OSEAN) , Development Indian Ocean Network, Earthday.org (Earth Day Network), Green Africa Youth Organization, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance and Boomerang Alliance called for the cigarette filter disposal.
Mary Assunta is Senior Policy Advisor, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)
IPS United Nations Office
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service