WHO tobacco treaty set to become law, making global public health history

News release

Manila

Peru became the 40th state to ratify the Treaty on 30 November 2004. In less than a year and a half, forty countries from all regions of the world have taken the necessary steps to become Contracting Parties to the Treaty, making it the first international legally binding public health treaty under the auspices of WHO.

"The momentum growing around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control seems unstoppable. It demonstrates the importance placed by the international community on saving many of the millions of lives now lost to tobacco," said Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General. "I look forward to more countries joining the 40 states that are making it possible for this Treaty to become law."

The WHO FCTC was unanimously adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly in May 2003 following almost three years of negotiations. During the year that followed, while it was open for signature, 167 countries and the European Community signed, and 23 countries became Contracting Parties to the Framework Convention, making it one of the most rapidly embraced UN Treaties of all time.

The WHO FCTC will enter into force on 28 February 2005, in 90 days. From that date on, the 40 Contracting Parties will be legally bound by the provisions of the Treaty. These provisions set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

"Now the real work must start," stressed Dr Catherine Le Gal├Ęs-Camus, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO. "The Convention sets forth the ideal goals and a roadmap for the work that needs to be implemented in countries. WHO will continue to support all countries in the vital work of building capacity and implementing the Treaty."

The Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the WHO, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, congratulated the 40 states that have become Parties: "I applaud these first 40 countries that are making history in international tobacco control and public health. Among the 40 Contracting Parties to the Convention there are rich and poor countries from all regions of the world. They are setting a precedent by showing that any country can join the Treaty, regardless of their geographical or economic situation," she said.

The WHO FCTC is intended to control what has become the second biggest killer of our time. Tobacco consumption is the single leading preventable cause of death. It will prematurely end the lives of 10 million people a year by 2020 if current trends are not reversed. Tobacco is the only legal product that causes the death of one half of its regular users. This means that of the current 1.3 billion smokers, 650 million people will die prematurely due to tobacco.

Notes to editors:

The WHO FCTC has provisions that set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke. The Treaty will enter into force on 28 February 2005 which is 90 days after the date of deposit of the 40th instrument of ratification (or its legal equivalent) by a State.

The Treaty continues from now on to be open for ratification, acceptance or approval for those countries that have signed, and is open for accession for those that have not. There is no deadline for countries to become Contracting Parties to the WHO FCTC. Any State that becomes a Contracting Party will be bound by the Treaty 90 days following the deposit of its instrument of ratification (or equivalent) in the United Nations Headquarters.

The body that will govern the WHO FCTC is the Conference of the Parties (COP). The first session of the COP will take place within a year from the date of entry into force, as specified in the Convention itself. The COP is expected to determine further procedural and technical issues relating to its future development.

_______________________

STATEMENT BY LEE JONG WOOK DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

Geneva - Peru has become the 40th country to become a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which will now become international law in 90 days. This is the first ever global public health treaty designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world. The entry into force of the Convention is the beginning of the real work which countries must do to control tobacco and limit the damage it does to people's health. WHO will continue to give full support to countries in implementing the Treaty.

From February 28 2005, the 40 countries that are Parties to the Treaty and others that subsequently ratify it or become parties to it will be legally bound by the provisions of the Treaty. These provisions set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

Tobacco is currently the second major cause of death in the world. It is responsible for about five million deaths every year. If current smoking patterns continue, that number could double by 2020. Half of the people who smoke today - that is about 650 million people - will eventually be killed by tobacco. Implementing this global Treaty will help countries to limit the enormous harm done by tobacco.

I would like to applaud the significant efforts that WHO Member States have put into the Convention process. From the moment the idea of a global treaty was born to today, when the Treaty is set to become law, the engagement and commitment of WHO Member States has been vital. It is only thanks to their enthusiasm and the trust they have placed in the process that we can today celebrate this great achievement.

I recognize the hard work done by civil society to turn this Treaty into reality. Non-governmental organizations were involved in the process right from the start, and their contribution is fully in line with the requirements of the Treaty. It emphasizes in its preamble the need for participation by civil society in tobacco control efforts nationally and internationally.

Today is also a time to congratulate the 40 countries that have been the first to become Parties to the Treaty and to lead the effort to combat tobacco around the world. These 40 countries represent all regions of the world, with states that are very different geographically, historically and socially. They are the living proof that this is a truly global treaty, with principles to which any country can adhere. These principles were discussed and agreed by all WHO Member States. The Treaty was adopted unanimously at the World Health Assembly just last year, and has rapidly been embraced by countries and people across the globe.

The momentum growing around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control seems unstoppable. It demonstrates the importance placed by the international community on saving many of the millions of lives now lost to tobacco. I look forward to more countries joining the 40 States that are making it possible for this Treaty to become law and encourage them to do so at the earliest opportunity.

For further information, please contact Burke Fisburn, Coordinator, Special Focus on Tobacco-Free Initiative, at (63 2) 528 9894 or email: fishburnb@wpro.who.int. For current status and full text of the WHO FCTC, please visit:
www.who.int/tobacco/areas/framework/signing_ceremony/countrylist/en/ All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page: http://www.who.int/.

Share
Health Topic