World's First Anti-Smoking Treaty Becomes Law

News release

Manila -

"The devastation caused by the tobacco pandemic dwarfs SARS and the recent tsunami. Every year, five million people die from tobacco-related diseases. In the Western Pacific Region alone, 3000 people die each day from tobacco use," stated Dr Shigeru Omi, Director of WHO's Western Pacific Region. "Now we have the global tools to fight a global problem. It's time for all countries to join the battle."

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 worldwide, 650 million people will die prematurely due to tobacco.

Convention provisions set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

The WHO FCTC was unanimously adopted by the Fifty-sixth 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.

On 30 November 2004, the 40th country ratified the convention, triggering a 90-day countdown for its entry into force. As of 23 February 2005, a total of 57 countries had ratified the convention.

In the Western Pacific Region, 13 countries have ratified the convention. They are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Fiji, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Singapore, Solomon Islands and Viet Nam. Fiji was the first Western Pacific country to ratify, on 3 October 2003.

Notes to editors:

The 40 contracting parties to the WHO FCTC as of 30 November 2004 were Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Ghana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Qatar, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

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. 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 in New York.

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. The first session has tentatively been scheduled for February 2006. The COP is expected to determine further procedural and technical issues relating to its future development.

For current status and full text of the WHO FCTC, please visit: www.who.int/tobacco/areas/framework/signing_ceremony/countrylist/en/

For further information, please contact Burke Fishburn, Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO WPRO, Tel: +(63 2) 528 9894, email: tfi_unit@wpro.who.int. All WHO press releases, fact sheets and features, as well as other information can be obtained at http://www.who.int/tobacco/en/.

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