WHO’s Director-General Urges Swifter Action on Tobacco Control

Geneva, Switzerland
7 November 2017

Dr Tedros delivering his opening speech at the WHO Global Conference on NCDs in Montevideo, Uruguay
WHO/D. Licona

Global tobacco control efforts are gaining accelerated momentum following a series of interventions by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s new Director-General.

In speeches around the world during his first months in office including in all WHO Regional Committees, Dr Tedros has made clear the importance he attaches to the entry into force of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, and to speedier implementation of its parent treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Speaking during the WHO Global Conference on Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Montevideo in October, Dr Tedros praised countries like Uruguay which have already ratified the Protocol.

“I urge countries in this room to join with Uruguay and others to make this happen,” he said. “By doing so, they will provide the world with another powerful legal tool to protect people from the evils of tobacco.”

The Director-General has referred to the Protocol in three major speeches since taking office in July, and has made broader references to the importance of tobacco control and tobacco taxation in other public statements.

Pointing out that the world allows “the tobacco industry to poison billions of people” in the name of economic development, the Director-General has been underlining the key role of tobacco control in meeting critical global targets, such as reductions in premature mortality from NCDs, which are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Dr Tedros’s clear focus send a strong message not only to governments from WHO member states but also to United Nations sister agencies to throw their weight behind the campaign, by calling their member states to adopt the Protocol and thereby accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.a. This key SDG target calls for strengthened implementation of the WHO FCTC, and recognizes the treaty’s central role in achieving SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being.

The Protocol has already been ratified or adopted by 33 countries and the European Union. It will take effect once it is ratified by another seven WHO FCTC Parties.

Dr Vera da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat, is confident that this milepost will be passed before July 2018, so allowing the Protocol’s first Meeting of the Parties to follow the Convention’s next Conference of the Parties (COP), scheduled to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1-8 October 2018.

“The Protocol represents the next step in global tobacco control and is a key step to achieving SDG target 3.a,” she said. “Protocol roll-out will be good news for human health and bad news for those who profit from this foul trade – smugglers, organized criminal gangs and the tobacco industry.”

Dr da Costa noted that the WHO FCTC is the most rapidly adopted treaty in UN history and now has 181 Parties. She appealed to those countries which haven’t yet joined, to do so: “We warmly welcome new Parties, which can influence further tobacco control efforts by joining our hugely successful global movement.”

The Protocol is the first protocol to the WHO FCTC. It is designed to end a trade which costs governments around the world at least $31 billion annually in lost tax revenue.

The illicit tobacco trade offers products at lower prices and thereby creates more tobacco addicts, disease and death. The Protocol will impose a wide range of measures relating to the tobacco supply chain, including a tracking and tracing system for products.