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Twenty-eight countries and the European Community sign tobacco treaty at first opportunity

States from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Oceania and South America represented

A range of countries — both large and small, developing and industrialized — as well as the European Community today signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the only global health treaty produced in several decades. The treaty opened for the first signatures at a ceremony held today at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization.

‘’The desire of countries to sign the Convention on the first day is more proof of the solid political commitment to put an end to deaths resulting from tobacco use," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, World Health Organization. "I urge countries throughout the world to follow the example of those here today — to swiftly sign and then ratify this treaty. Let's keep the momentum going," she declared.

As soon as 40 countries ratify the Convention, it becomes law for those countries and thereafter, for other countries that ratify it. Today’s signature does not yet bind countries to the treaty, but is an expression of political support and of good faith to abide by the principles it enshrines in the interim period until ratification.

Today's signatories, in the order that they signed, were: Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, the European Community, Botswana, Hungary, Iceland, Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Paraguay, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Gambia. The European Community signs as a regional economic integration organization. Its Member States that wish to do so will sign and ratify the treaty individually.

The treaty sets an international floor for tobacco control with provisions on advertising and sponsorship, tax and price increases, labelling, illicit trade and secondhand smoke. Countries and regional economic integration organizations are free to legislate at higher thresholds. Treaty signatories are under an obligation to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. They have the right to receive notifications from the depositary, including information as to which countries have ratified the treaty.

In her message to the signing ceremony, Dr Brundtland said: "This treaty makes us accountable to the world. It also makes the world accountable to itself. We are racing against time that clocks 5 million tobacco deaths in the world every year."

Dr Brundtland has made global tobacco control a high priority during her five-year term as Director-General. Over four years, WHO Member States and the European Community worked through several drafts of the FCTC before arriving at a consensus document that was unanimously adopted at the World Health Assembly last month. The FCTC is the first international treaty ever to be negotiated by WHO, the United Nations’ principal health agency.

The Convention has been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and is open for signature this week (until 22 June) at the World Health Organization. From 30 June to 29 June 2004, it will be available for signature at UN headquarters in New York .

After ratification, the next stage is making the FCTC a reality on the ground. To accomplish this, WHO Member States will need to translate it into national laws and to set the technical foundations to implement the Convention. WHO released Tobacco Control Legislation: An Introductory Guide last week. This is one of a series of WHO materials produced to support countries in implementing the FCTC.

The FCTC is a global public health tool to fight a worldwide threat — it aims to protect national legislation from being circumvented by transnational phenomena, such as cross-border advertising and smuggling of tobacco products.

Photographs of the FCTC signing ceremony will be available here

A video news release will be distributed by Eurovision News Exchange. Please contact the WHO TV studio for details: Jean Marc Glinz +41 79 203 9644 or Danielle Suter +41 22 791 2584.

Countries who wish to make appointments to sign the FCTC this week in Geneva are kindly asked to contact and to submit full powers if required, to the WHO Office of the Legal Counsel, Geneva: Tel. +41 22 791 2638; Fax +41 22 791 4158.

More information about WHO's tobacco control activities, including the FCTC

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is available in six languages

Tobacco Control Legislation: An Introductory Guide may be obtained from Marketing and Dissemination, WHO, Tel. +41 22 791 2476; Fax: +41 22 791 4857; E-mail:

For more information contact:

Ms Melinda Henry
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 2535
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 477 1738
Fax: +41 (22) 791 4858