Health Promotion International  |  December 12, 2021

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The tobacco, alcohol, beverage, processed food, firearms, gambling, fossil fuel and mining industries, inter alia, are implicated in fostering negative commercial determinants of health. They do this by shaping our environments, tastes, knowledge and politics in favour of the unlimited consumption and unencumbered promotion of their deadly and dangerous products. To shift the determinants of health, emphasis should be put on preventing industry actors whose profit lies in harming health from wielding influence over the institutions and actors of global and national governance. The tobacco control experience and the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) provide a unique, comprehensive and fully substantiated guide for how this may be done. Just as the tobacco industry was a pathfinder for other harmful industries in developing tactics for expanding the depth and reach of the market for their deadly products, the WHO FCTC experience is the obvious pathfinder for countering the commercial determinants of health across all sectors and industries. Although they are desirable for countering negative commercial determinants of health, the WHO FCTC’s lesson is not that commercially driven epidemics must be tackled with legally binding treaties. Rather, given the challenges to treaty-making, the key lessons are those that show how it is possible to address the harms of other commodities, even in a treaty’s absence. What is needed is the national implementation of measures providing for intersectoral governance and protection from industry interference which will then assist in unlocking measures for reducing the supply of and demand for unhealthy commodities.

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