Tobacco and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Online Q&A
May 2017

Q: What is the global impact of tobacco use?

A: Tobacco consumption is the single largest preventable cause of death, killing more than 7 million people each year, of which more than 6 million are users or ex-users of tobacco, and around 890 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. More than 80% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco kills many people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce.

Q: What is tobacco control?

A: Tobacco control refers to a range of comprehensive measures to protect people from the effects of tobacco consumption and second-hand tobacco smoke. To control tobacco use, countries can:

  • protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke
  • ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  • ban tobacco sales to minors
  • require health warnings on tobacco packaging
  • promote tobacco cessation
  • increase tobacco taxation
  • create national coordinating mechanisms for tobacco control.

Tobacco control represents a powerful tool in improving health in communities and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG target 3.4 is to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030, including cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes.

Q: What is the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?

A: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is an international treaty designed by countries as the most powerful tool to reduce the health and economic burden caused by tobacco. It entered into force in 2005, and implementation of the Convention is called for in target 3.a of the Sustainable Development Goals. The WHO FCTC is one of the most rapidly embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations.

There are 180 Parties to the Convention, which is legally binding, meaning that Parties are required to take incremental action to prevent tobacco consumption, marketing and exposure, among many other measures. The Convention contains core demand- and supply-reduction provisions of proven effectiveness and calls for enhanced international cooperation. It also requires Parties to protect their tobacco control and public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

Q: Why must countries implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?

A: Increased trade, foreign investment, global marketing and other complex international phenomena have led to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. As the epidemic transcends national borders, its control requires international cooperation and multilateral regulation.

The WHO FCTC was developed as a global response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. There is no doubt that reducing the rates of uptake and consumption of tobacco will save lives and that the WHO FCTC is the evidence-based tool with which to do it.

By becoming Parties and implementing the provisions of the WHO FCTC where it counts most – at the country level – countries are working towards a tobacco-free world and towards millions of lives saved.

Related links