Who Will Lead the WHO?

Upcoming Elections

In May 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold its General Assembly. Member states will select who the new director general is to be. The WHO plays a major indirect role on the ongoing EU Health Commission discussions on tracking and tracing tobacco products as they have created clear guidelines on tobacco product tracing outlined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Who are the WHO Candidates?

Dr. Sania Nisthar

Dr. Nisthar is the former Pakistani Health minister and runs her own NGO called Heartfile. Dr. Nisthar is also the co-chair of the WHO Commission on ending child obesity.

Dr Nisthar was know for her fights against big tobacco in Pakistan. Below I have listed some of her feats in this regard:

  1. Active member on the International Non-Governmental Coalition Against Tobacco
  2. Heartfile promoted the “ban-TAPS” Campaign in Pakistan and celebrated “world no tobacco day”
  3. published articles against the tobacco industry.
  4. Conducted research  into socioeconomic influence on tobacco use

Dr. David Nabarro

Dr Nabarro has spend much of his career at the WHO and UN. Dr. Nabarro served in a verity of roles relating to nutrition and food safety. He has also spoken out against big tobaccos attempts to influence the WHO. He has stated in the past that the WHO “needed better safeguards from industry interests.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The only non-MD contender is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Dr. Tedros is a seasoned political actor who served in many prestigious and senior government roles in his native Ethiopia. He served as both foreign and health minister. Although not an MD, Dr Tedros is no doubt academically qualified for such a WHO role as he has a PhD on community health.

Dr Tedros’ relationship with big tobacco is a bit more complex that the other two candidates. I spoke to leading tobacco control activists in Africa expressed concern about Dr Tedros.

As foreign minister Dr Tedros seemed to facilitate BAT investment in Ethiopia which came in the form of a meeting with BAT officials while on a visit to The UK.

Additionally Dr. Frank Ashall an associate professor at an Ethiopian university  and now the director of Africa Tobacco-Free initiative has written articles apposing Dr Tedros’ candidacy.  Dr Ashall’s concerns revolve around  2016 Deal involving Dr Tedros that saw Japan Tobacco International purchase 40% ownership in the Ethiopian government owned National Tobacco Enterprise.

Dr Ashall explained in a comment o this blog that: “(Dr Tedros was) Foreign Minister at the time, and as a man who should care about expansion of tobacco and increased cigarette smoking in his own country, and as a man who is hoping to become WHO Director General, he should unquestionably have spoken out against this deal.”

I sent a series of questions to all three WHO candidates before writing this article. Unfortunately I did not receive responses from any of them.

Impact on EU Track ad Trace

The FCTC is of relevance in the greater context of my blogging as it explicitly states in article 8.12 that “Obligations assigned to a Party shall not be performed by or delegated to the tobacco industry.” This by extension extends to Inexto which was born out of the tobacco industry created technology called Codentify. Today Inexto’s core product remains the Codentify system and its senior staff are all those who created Codentify for big tobacco.

The WHO is the premiere body on which several EU member states have chosen to base their operating practices on. It is thus of critical importance that the WHO’s director general not just be divorced of tobacco industry ties but have a clearly demonstrable past of fighting the industry as a whole in the name of a healthier future.

We must insure that whoever becomes the WHO’s director general will proper carry out the FCTC and fight to exclude Inexto as a track and trace option in Europe.

Questions of Transparency in EU Heath Commission’s Tobacco Track and Trace Consultation

I have written twice now on the questionable hiring of PwC and Everis by the EU Health Commission to consult on adopting a track and trace solution for tobacco products in the EU.

After publishing my first article on the matter, which brought to light obvious ties between PwC and the tobacco industry, I began to work on a follow up. During the process of writing my follow up piece I turned to the commission itself for comment but received no answer in reply.

It was only after I brought the matter to the EU Ombudsman office that the commission took the time to respond to my inquiry.

Since publishing my first article I know of at least 3 European parliament members who wrote of their concerns to the commission as well.

Myself along with these members of parliament received rather vague responses from the commission.

Much has happened since these two articles where published. In December there was a stakeholders meeting and since then Everis has been tasked with conducting continued consultation work.

It is in light of the continued developments on the matter that I wrote to commission personnel as well as a spokesperson with a series of specific questions regarding the progress that Everis is taking.

Again, it took the commission over a week to respond my questions and they only did so after the intervention of the EU Ombudsman office and my bringing this to the attention of the tobacco control movement.

Below is the unedited question and answer discourse between myself and a commission spokesperson:

1) can You provide an update on the direction that the consultation is taking, specifically which of the three types of solutions is being considered: industry based, external or mixed solutions?

If your question refers to the policy options related to the model for marking products with unique identifiers, we are currently analysing and evaluating all the possible options and at the current stage no final decision has been taken.

2) What type of contact is taking place between PwC, Everis as well as the commission itself with the tobacco industry during this consultation process? Are any of the the above metioned bodies in touch with the tobacco industry between stakeholder workshops?

We wish to underline that the involvement of stakeholders and general public in this implementing process has been conducted in line with the rules on the Better Regulation and FCTC Article 5.3 . In this regard please note in particular that:

Following the Feasibility study (published in March 2015 http://ec.europa.eu/health//sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2015_tpd_tracking_tracing_frep_en.pdf ) a targeted stakeholders consultations was conducted. The results of such consultation are published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2015_tpd_consultation_en

A second consultation, addressed to all stakeholders and the general public, was launched following the publication of the Inception Impact Assessment, https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_traceability_security_features_en

As prescribed by the Better Regulation rules, a stakeholder workshop was held in December 2016. A summary record of the meeting has been published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_stakeholderworkshop_tpd_en

The opinions received in the context of these consultations have been analysed and taken into account appropriately by the external contractor, Everis.

3) Does the commission or its consultants qualify Inexto as an independent, mixed or tobacco industry solution?

Please note that the role of the Commission in its implementation work is not to select any individual set of proprietary technologies, but rather to determine the technical standards for the establishment and the operation of the tracking and tracing system, as provided by Article 15(11) of Directive 2014/40/EU.

4) How do you plan on keeping the public up to date on this issue in between stakeholder workshops?

In addition to the requirements prescribed under the Better Regulation framework, summary records of meetings of the Subgroup on traceability and security features, as well as all other meetings with Member States, are published on DG SANTE official website.
Finally please note that in addition to the consultation of experts in the Member States the draft texts of delegated and implementing acts will be made public for 4 weeks on the Europa Website, allowing stakeholder feedbacks.

5) Can you please elaborate on what the exact roles of PwC and Everis are in the consultation process? We saw Everis heavily featured at the last stakeholders workshop but did not see any real presence of PwC. What is PwC’s role exactly?

The actual work is carried out by Everis. None of the members of the contractor’s team is currently working for PwC.

6) what will the consultation process look like from here through may (the next stakeholders workshop)?

In the context of the present implementation process the consultation with stakeholders and general public follows the rules prescribed by the Better Regulation. Please note that the consultation strategy related to the secondary legislation under Articles 15 and 16 of Directive 2014/40/EU was published in July 2016 (https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2016_consultation_strategy_en.pdf ).

7) who specifically are you in touch with from the tobacco industry?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

8) Who are you specifically in touch with from Inexto?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

This, of course, only raises more concerns about the level of transparency and practices taking place regarding the track and trace solution much needed in the EU.

All of this is taking place in the shadow of the sale of a tobacco industry produced solution called Codentify, that the industry sold off to a third party that still contains questionable ties to big tobacco. The system has since been renamed and re-branded as Inexto. This is also a topic I have covered extensively.

I have even gone so far as to produce a video about the ongoing ties between big tobacco and Inexto.

The delayed response from the EU Health Commission only raises concerns that I mentioned in the above video.

I hope with the publication and sharing of this post additional responsible actors in Europe will seek clarity on this matter from the commission.

If anyone wants to write to them on this important issue please do so.

You can reach their spokesperson at: Enrico.BRIVIO@ec.europa.eu

Inexto and Codentify: Connecting the Dots.

As my readers know by now, Codentify is the tracking and tracing system proposed by the tobacco industry as the solution for governments to meet their obligations under Article 8 of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products when it will enter into force.

The Codentify system was developed and patented, and the trademark registered, by Philip Morris International in 2006. To promote the system as an “industry standard,” the four major tobacco multinationals, PMI, BAT, JTI and Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) created in 2011 the Digital Coding and Tracking Association (DCTA), based in Zurich, Switzerland.

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2006 Codentify Patent

Codentify has been criticized for the inadequacy of its technology with the requirements of the IT Protocol. Furthermore, the role of the tobacco industry in controlling and promoting this system raises serious concern, notably because the past and current record of the tobacco companies’ involvement in illicit trade of tobacco products, and with respect to Article 5.3 of the FCTC which requires that the tobacco industry be kept at arm’s length of governmental decisions. In their 2013 paper, Joossens and Gilmore indicated that the tobacco industry had devised a strategy to circumvent this concern by licensing the Codentify technology “to ‘credible’ third party providers who would in turn promote Codentify on their behalf.”

Last June the system was sold off to a so called “third party. The DCTA announced in a press release that its four members had signed and completed an agreement “by which Inexto, an affiliate of the French Group Impala, has acquired the DCTA’s track & trace and product authentication technology,” adding that “a specialized and independent technology company is now best placed to further develop this technology.”

I initially helped break the story in June of 2016 in an EU Observer article on the subject of the sale.

Since then I also indicated based on my sources that the Codentify product will be broken up and re-branded which is since evident in this latest Inexto/Codentify brochure which today makes no mention of Codentify or their tobacco industry past. The above mentioned brochure has since been removed from the web.

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Inexto’s 4 technological offerings based on Codentify, since removed from the web.

Since the publishing of this article the above mentioned presentation has been removed. Today the link appears below with a 404 error.

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Inexto products slideshow removed from the internet after the publication of this blog.

How independent is this new company? Its statutes are completely anonymous and offer no clue to answer this question. They simply indicate that the company maintains a list of owners which can be “accessed at any time in Switzerland.”

What we do know is a number of their key leadership roles are filled by the creators of Codentify back in PMI. This is a topic I have covered heavily in the past.

Inexto’s head office is located at avenue Edouard-Dapples 7 in Lausanne, not far from PMI’s headquarters. Interestingly, this address does not correspond to an office building but to a residential apartment building, with about 15 occupants.

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Inexto offices at avanue Edouard-Dapples 7 in Lausanne

After some web-searching of all building resident, none of the tenants had the profile to host the new company, except perhaps one…

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Inexto doorbell in same building as a tobacco industry executive.

Sylviane Marguerat Jendly, who is … Manager Procurement Switzerland at PMI.

Marguerat CV.jpg
Marguerat’s linkedin CV title.

Below is her address listing publicly available on the internet.

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Proof of Marguerat’s address publicly accessible online.

Perhaps Marguerat, was the one to suggest to Inexto a convenient and discrete office space just blocks from PMI’s offices.

map-of-pmi-to-inexto-offices
Inexto’s office is just a 5 minute drive from PMI’s.

These bits of information about the company, together with the opacity otherwise surrounding its creation, suggests that Inexto may have links with PMI. Consequently, regulators and policy decision makers who might have to deal with Inexto should be careful before assuming that the company is independent from the tobacco industry. They should request that solid and trustworthy evidence of its independence be provided by the new company. In particular, they should request Inexto to produce the list of its shareholders and copies of all its contractual agreements with DCTA and its member companies, notably Philip Morris, including full information about the conditions under which intellectual property rights for Codentify were transferred to the new company.

Inexto: Big Tobacco’s Codentify in Disguise

Several months ago I broke the story that the Big Tobacco’s DCTA sold Codentify to  Impala and a new entity was formed called Inexto to continue to market the tobacco industry’s created solution for serializing tobacco products as a tracking and tracing tax system.

I recently decided to take a look at their website and low and behold no mention of their product’s tobacco industry past or almost any other substantive information for that matter at all.

I highly suggest you take a look at their website for yourself as below I have laid out several elements I believe their site is missing:

1) PROPER TITLE

inexto-logo
The new homepage for Codentify is Inexto

Firstly, their new homepage makes no mention of the company’s product being the brainchild of PMI and makes the same old false branding claim that Codentify made back in the day.

Below is a more proper title made with similar level of graphic design as their actual site.

new-logo
Enter a caption

2) ABOUT THE PRODUCT

Inexto’s site provides no actual information about the product or its past and so I have taken the liberty to write it for them below:

Inexto is the latest step taken by big tobacco to distance themselves from their self created serialization product, originally called Codentify, and rebrand it as a trustworthy track and trace system that the EU can rely on in order to properly monitor the industry for taxation purposes.

Inexto’s Codentify was dreamed up by and developed within PMI and originally marketed to their competitor’s as a serialization product designed to store as limited useful information as possible in order to avoid their competitors from understanding sensitive product data. When the EU decided to seek a tool to implement across Europe in order to track and trace tobacco products, big tobacco decided to rebrand their already existing tool as a reasonable solution.

After great efforts on behalf of the tobacco control movement against the Codentify ploy, big tobacco felt obliged to distance the product from themselves in a last ditch effort to deceive the EU into thinking there is oversight.

Make no mistake, Inexto is Codentify and Codentify is an inherent part of the tobacco industry.

3) OUR TEAM

There is absolutely no mention of the manpower behind Inexto on their website. Tfhe good news is that Linkedin helped me easily produce their corporate leadership bios. featured below:

Erwan Fradet was a senior engineer in PMI’s tracking and security activities over the past 10+ years, in fact, since 2010 he was Codentify’s project manager. But where does he work these days? He is Inexto’s new Chief Technology Officer!

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Screenshot from Erwan Fradet’s linkedin from June 2016

Take a look at Inexto’s Development Manager, Nicolas Stubi, He has a rather long resume filled with tobacco industry roles, Inexto is no different.

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Screen shot from Nicolas Stubi’s Linkedin from June 2016

Those are some pretty serious tobacco industry resumes for an “independent” company.

In conclusion Inexto is nothing more then a tobacco industry sham and their vague website is as superficial as their plan to “sell” Codentify to a “third party”.

All of what i said is pretty clear the only question left is: will they take my advice and update their website?