UN health agency unanimously adopts treaty to curb tobacco use

The 192-member United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today unanimously adopted a global treaty aimed at curbing tobacco-related deaths and disease, which now claim 5 million lives every year, a number that if left unchecked could double by 2020.The first international treaty negotiated under WHO auspices, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires countries to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls and strengthen legislation to clamp down on tobacco smuggling.“Today, we are acting to save billions of lives and protect people’s health for generations to come. This is a historic moment in global public health, demonstrating the international will to tackle a threat to health head on,” WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, told the fifty-sixth World Health Assembly in Geneva.“Now we must see this Convention come into force as soon as possible, and countries must use it as the basis of their national tobacco-control legislation,” she said.Four years in the making, the Convention has been a priority in WHO’s global work to stem the tobacco epidemic. The present annual death toll from tobacco, 5 million people each year, could double to 10 million by 2020 if countries do not implement the measures of the FCTC, the agency said. While smoking rates are declining in some industrialized countries, they are increasing, especially among the young, in many developing countries. These will account for over 70 per cent of that projected death toll.“We must do our utmost to ensure that young people everywhere have the best opportunities for a healthy life. By signing, ratifying and acting on this Tobacco Convention, we can live up to this responsibility,” Dr. Brundtland said.To bring the FCTC into force, 40 countries are needed to ratify or otherwise accept it. The FCTC will be open for signature at WHO headquarters from 16 to 22 June and thereafter at UN Headquarters in New York from 30 June 2003 to 29 June 2004.“Every country present in this room will testify to the challenges we faced as we worked on this final document. We now have to ensure the agreement we have reached will do what is intended to do – save lives and prevent disease,” said Ambassador Luis Felipe Seixas de Corrêa, the Brazilian diplomat who chaired the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body of the FCTC. Listen to UN Radio report