FCTC COP 10 Meeting Postponed Amid Violence in Panama

Nov. 14 update
The postponed COP 10 meeting is likely to be held in February or March 2024, based on statements made today by FCTC Secretariat head Adriana Blanco Marquizo and Carmen Ávila, Panamanian representative to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Blanco told Costa Rican publication aDiarioCR the meeting will definitely not be held virtually, as COP 9 was in 2021. According to aDiario, Ávila "confirmed that the government of Panama is analyzing the situation to provide the new dates for 2024."

The much-anticipated biennial meeting of Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) member states—known as the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10)—has been postponed until next year. The meeting, which sets tobacco policy for most of the world, had been scheduled for Nov. 20-25 in Panama.

In its announcement the FCTC Secretariat (leadership group) cited “the current security situation” in host country Panama as the sole reason for the delay. The Secretariat says the postponed sessions “are expected to be held in Panama, as early as possible in 2024, at dates to be confirmed.”

Panama has been rocked by political unrest in recent months. Two people died earlier this week during protests against a controversial government contract granted to a Canadian company for an open-pit copper mine west of the nation’s capital Panama City.

Another reason for the postponement, according to FCTC watchdog site COPWATCH, may be that the consortium given responsibility (and $5 million in funding) for organizing the conference pulled out at the last minute, amid allegations of corruption.

The notoriously insular and secretive COP meetings—whose participants typically vote to keep the news media out—are held every two years. All 183 Parties to the FCTC agree to conform their national laws and regulations to decisions voted by the whole FCTC, which means the COP meetings determine tobacco policy for most of the world. (The United States is not a signatory to the FCTC, but sends a delegation to the COP.)

Due to the COVID pandemic, the previous FCTC meeting (COP 9) was held virtually in 2021. The FCTC Secretariat decided then to postpone important discussions regarding vapes and other low-risk nicotine products until COP 10.

Among the positions the Secretariat—and its allies at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Bloomberg Philanthropies—will advocate for at COP 10 include:

·Banning vaping flavors
·Banning open-system (refillable) products
·Banning nicotine salt e-liquid
·Redefining the term “smoke” to include smoke-free vapor
·Regulating and taxing all nicotine products as harshly as cigarettes

The FCTC Secretariat routinely grants COP observer status to anti-tobacco and anti-vaping organizations that help craft the restrictive policies favored by the leadership, but refuses to admit nicotine consumer groups that represent legitimate stakeholders in the discussions.