Conference of the Parties

International Conference Centre Geneva
6 February 2006

Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the first session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

One hundred and twenty one countries are now contracting parties to the Convention. Of these, 110 are here today, with full powers of participation. You represent nearly three quarters of the world's population. You represent nations at all levels of income and all stages of development. In this powerful gathering, we have three of the five top tobacco-leaf exporting countries, and four of the five top cigarette-exporting countries. This group of countries represents 69% of the world's cigarette consumption. It might seem astonishing that this group is also preparing to put into action the roadmap for countries to control tobacco. But this group has already changed history.

When the process began there was some scepticism over its success. The sceptics were wrong.

You are driving change forward. To name some examples: India has introduced comprehensive tobacco advertising bans. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand have introduced highly visible graphic warnings on cigarette packets. The European Union is on its way to doing the same. In Ireland, Norway, and now in Spain, smoking has been banned in indoor public places. These, and other similar steps, will result in a major reduction in tobacco deaths.

New York State passed a smoking ban. It termed this act its "strongest public health policy ever". Ironically, now it's said that the only place you can smoke with impunity in New York City is the United Nations Building.

Both Ann Veneman and I have said that this is wrong. Smoking should be banned in all UN premises. Also, cigarette sales should be banned in all United Nations premises. After all, the people who are smoking in the UN building sometimes are the representatives of the same Member States who have signed up to the Framework Convention. But it can be hard to put agreements into practice. We will all face this.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we know that, in an Irish pub, a smoking ban can really work, then we know that anything is possible.

Smoking is an advance contract. Those who smoke don't pay now, but will do so 30 to 40 years later, when their health fails. They pay with lung cancer, with obstructive airways disorders, with cardiovascular diseases. One in two smokers pays with their life.

We have to help them stop smoking. We have to prevent them from starting.

This convention is something that we all committed to. Its provisions are bold. They are based on knowledge of what is effective.

We will make it work.

Thank you.

Related links

Director-General's speech

Conference of the Parties

Unveiling of the death clock