Landmark UN tobacco-control treaty reaches ratification goal to become law

1 December 2004

The United Nations landmark global treaty to curb tobacco use, which now claims almost 5 million lives a year and causes an estimated annual net loss of $200 billion in treatment and lost productivity, will enter into force in 90 days now that 40 countries have ratified it, the UN health agency announced today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires treaty parties to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls, and strengthen laws clamping down on tobacco smuggling in the war on the world’s leading cause of preventable deaths.

“The momentum growing around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control seems unstoppable,” the agency’s Director-General, Lee Jong-wook, said. “It demonstrates the importance placed by the international community on saving many of the millions of lives now lost to tobacco.”

If current trends are not reversed, tobacco will prematurely end the lives of 10 million people a year by 2020. It 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.

Following yesterday’s ratification by Peru - the 40th country to do so - the treaty will become the first international legally binding public health pact under the agency’s auspices on 28 February. It has become one of the most rapidly embraced UN conventions, with 167 WHO Member States and the European Community (EC) having already signed it.

"Now the real work must start," said WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Galès-Camus. "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 economic costs of tobacco use are devastating. In addition to the high public health price of treating tobacco-caused diseases, the product kills people at the height of their productivity.

Tobacco users are also less productive while they are alive due to increased sickness. A 1994 report estimated that the use of tobacco resulted in an annual global net loss of $200 billion, a third of this loss being in developing countries.

 

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