Landmark UN tobacco-control treaty becomes law

28 February 2005

The United Nations global treaty on tobacco came into force yesterday with a plea to all countries to join the landmark compact that seeks to curb a product that now claims nearly 5 million lives worldwide each year and causes an estimated annual net loss of $200 billion in treatment and lost productivity.

“I encourage all countries to become party to this treaty, and to implement the range of measures which will make tobacco use less and less attractive to people,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-wook said of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The treaty requires parties to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls, and strengthen laws against tobacco smuggling. It needed ratification by 40 countries to enter into force and 57, representing 2.3 billion people, over a third of the world’s population, have so far done so.

Countries party to the treaty are bound to translate its general provisions into national laws and regulations. They will have, for example, three years to ensure that tobacco packaging has strong health warnings, and five years to establish comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans.

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

Evidence shows that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Tobacco use is the cause of the majority of lung cancer cases and it has been linked to many other types of cancer, such as cervical and kidney cancer. Other health risks associated with tobacco include heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases; bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as infertility.

Tobacco use continues to expand, especially in the developing world, where currently half of the deaths due to tobacco occur. If the trends continue, seven out of every ten deaths due to tobacco will occur in the developing world by 2020.

 

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