As we reported on Monday, the World Health Organization, in cooperation with the United Nations (there’s a great pairing for you, eh?) took rapid steps to eject the public from their global tobacco conference. Thanks to a few reporters who are on site, we have been getting further details. As it turns out, not only did they remove the public, but they next moved to kick out the press. And guess who was around to help out with the bouncer duties… none other than an old pal of Muammar Gaddafi.
The tyrannical attack on the principles of transparency and accountability took place when delegates from more than 175 countries who are part of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a UN global anti-tobacco treaty, agreed unanimously to boot spectators. Delegates then voted to ban the public from the Moscow conference center where the event is taking place for the duration of the week-long meeting.
“We don’t need the public here!” proclaimed Uganda’s representative. Libya’s chief delegate Mohamed Ibrahim Saleh Daganee gritted his teeth as he demanded other delegates join him in voting to close the meeting to the public. “We don’t know who these people are,” complained Mr. Daganee, a former health information director under Muammar Gaddafi.
Once the prying eyes of the press were safely out of the way, the in house reporters determined that the WHO crew went ahead with what they’ve been planning all along and voted in favor of the new global tobacco tax.
After the doors were slammed shut and the meeting resumed, it became clear why the delegates chased the public away: They wanted to work on passing a global tax on tobacco in secret.
The international tobacco tax proposal would require that countries who signed the UN anti-tobacco agreement – nearly every major nation in the world except for the United States, Switzerland and Indonesia – to enact an excise tax equal to at least 70 percent of the retail price of tobacco products. That means a $10 pack of cigarettes would cost more than $33.
While the secrecy leaves us with fewer details than we’d like, there are two other disturbing elements to this. The first are the repeated rumors that they are also working on a hefty tax on e-cigarettes, which have helped so many people quit using actual tobacco products. That would seem directly contrary to the stated goals of this meeting.
The second is the more general idea that the WHO and the United Nations have the authority to impose any sort of tax mandate on the the entire planet. If they succeed in this, it will serve as a reference point when the UN wants to make similar moves in the future. This is bad news all the way around. But I suppose if you’re inviting part of Gaddafi’s crew to run interference for you, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised.