The manufacture, use, and marketing of tobacco present a serious threat to children's right to health. This makes the Convention on the Rights of the Child a potentially powerful tobacco-control tool and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which oversees the convention's implementation, a potential leader in tobacco control. UNICEF actively supported tobacco control initiatives in the late 1990s, but since the early 2000s UNICEF's role in tobacco control has been minimal. Using the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library, an online collection of previously secret tobacco industry documents, we sought to uncover information on the tobacco industry's ties with UNICEF. We found that from 1997 to 2000, when UNICEF was actively promoting tobacco control to support children's rights, the tobacco industry saw children's rights and UNICEF as potentially powerful threats to business that needed to be closely monitored and neutralized. The industry then positioned itself as a partner with UNICEF on youth smoking prevention initiatives as a way to avoid meaningful tobacco control measures that could save children's lives. After UNICEF's corporate engagement guidelines were loosened in 2003, tobacco companies successfully engaged with UNICEF directly and via front groups, including the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation. This was part of an overall tobacco industry strategy to improve its corporate image, infiltrate the United Nations, and weaken global tobacco-control efforts. As part of its mission to protect children's rights, UNICEF should end all partnerships with the tobacco industry and its front groups.
Copyright © 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.