Media centre

WHO tobacco Treaty set to become law, making global public health history

Key milestone reached as 40th country ratifies WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

No smoking sign

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) will enter into force and become part of international law in 90 days, following ratification by 40 countries in the past 17 months. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will improve health by contributing to the reduction of tobacco consumption, currently the cause of premature death for nearly five million people every year.

Peru became the 40th state to ratify the Treaty on 30 November 2004. In less than a year and a half, forty countries from all regions of the world have taken the necessary steps to become Contracting Parties to the Treaty, making it the first international legally binding public health treaty under the auspices of WHO.

"The momentum growing around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control seems unstoppable. It demonstrates the importance placed by the international community on saving many of the millions of lives now lost to tobacco,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General. "I look forward to more countries joining the 40 states that are making it possible for this Treaty to become law."

The WHO FCTC was unanimously adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly in May 2003 following almost three years of negotiations. During the year that followed, while it was open for signature, 167 countries and the European Community signed, and 23 countries became Contracting Parties to the Framework Convention, making it one of the most rapidly embraced UN Treaties of all time.

The WHO FCTC will enter into force on 28 February 2005, in 90 days. From that date on, the 40 Contracting Parties will be legally bound by the provisions of the Treaty. These provisions set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

"Now the real work must start," stressed Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO. "The Convention sets forth the ideal goals and a roadmap for the work that needs to be implemented in countries. WHO will continue to support all countries in the vital work of building capacity and implementing the Treaty."

The Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the WHO, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, congratulated the 40 states that have become Parties: "I applaud these first 40 countries that are making history in international tobacco control and public health. Among the 40 Contracting Parties to the Convention there are rich and poor countries from all regions of the world. They are setting a precedent by showing that any country can join the Treaty, regardless of their geographical or economic situation," she said.

The WHO FCTC is intended to control what has become the second biggest killer of our time. Tobacco consumption is the single leading preventable cause of death. It will prematurely end the lives of 10 million people a year by 2020 if current trends are not reversed. Tobacco is the only legal product that causes the death of one half of its regular users. This means that of the current 1.3 billion smokers, 650 million people will die prematurely due to tobacco.

Notes to editors

The WHO FCTC closed for signature on 29 June 2004 with 168 signatories (including the European Community) and 23 ratifications (or its legal equivalent). The 40 Contracting Parties to the WHO FCTC as of 30 November 2004 are Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Ghana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Qatar, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

The WHO FCTC has provisions that set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke. The Treaty will enter into force on 28 February 2005 which is 90 days after the date of deposit of the 40th instrument of ratification (or its legal equivalent) by a State.

The Treaty continues from now on to be open for ratification, acceptance or approval for those countries that have signed, and is open for accession for those that have not. There is no deadline for countries to become Contracting Parties to the WHO FCTC. Any State that becomes a Contracting Party will be bound by the Treaty 90 days following the deposit of its instrument of ratification (or equivalent) in the United Nations Headquarters.

The body that will govern the WHO FCTC is the Conference of the Parties (COP). The first session of the COP will take place within a year from the date of entry into force, as specified in the Convention itself. The COP is expected to determine further procedural and technical issues relating to its future development.

For more information contact:

Marta Seoane