A groundbreaking moment in public health history is just around the corner, as the sixth and final round of negotiations for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) begins next week in Geneva. The convention is part of a global strategy to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world.
When in force, this global health treaty – the first ever under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) – will include international rules on tobacco taxation, smoking prevention and treatment, illicit trade, advertising and promotion, and product regulation.
“The tobacco epidemic is killing 4.9 million people every year, which will double in twenty years if we do nothing to stop it. We know that a big part of the solution lies in promoting stop-smoking programmes, raising tobacco taxes, increasing education, banning tobacco advertising and cracking down on smuggling,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. “We are now very close to the end of this convention process. Finalizing a text to support real reductions in tobacco use will be a triumph for public health.”
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which meets from 17-28 February, will discuss the newly revised text recently released by INB chair, Brazilian Ambassador Luis Felipe de Seixas Corrêa. Both Dr Brundtland and Ambassador Seixas Corrêa say that the text provides a solid basis for broad acceptance while retaining a major impact on public health.
“The text I have proposed contains changes based on the last negotiations in October and on meetings with countries since that time. We have taken regional interests into account but must ultimately look at global interests in crafting an effective treaty to protect public health worldwide,” said Ambassador de Seixas Corrêa.
“This means producing a text that has teeth and that is also acceptable to the widest possible number of countries. If both of these conditions are not met, we will not have an effective convention.”
WHO member states are expected to reach consensus on a final text to be submitted to the World Health Assembly for adoption in May. A key aspect of the negotiations is the issue of a total ban on tobacco advertising. The text states that a complete ban on advertising should be the ultimate goal for signatories to the convention and encourages early elaboration of a supporting protocol on eliminating cross-border advertising and promotion.
“WHO supports an outright ban on tobacco advertising, and I am confident that the text leads the way to this end,” said Dr Brundtland.
Discussions during the negotiations will include future protocols to the FCTC to further strengthen regulation on tobacco advertising and illicit trade.
Tobacco control activities have increased around the world as a result of the FCTC process, which encourages strong domestic policies in concert with global regulation. Capacity-building projects have begun in numerous countries to assist them in adopting stronger tobacco-control legislation.
Moreover, tobacco-use surveys are being standardized to make comparative analysis easier. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey, which began in 1998 and tracks the tobacco use of young people around the world, continues to collect data in more and more countries. Information from surveys helps countries to implement effective tobacco control and prevention programmes.