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Countries meet in Geneva to craft tobacco treaty

Negotiators from WHO member states meet in Geneva next week for two weeks of talks on developing global rules to curb the advertising, promotion and sales and smuggling of tobacco products.

The fifth session of the Inter-governmental Negotiating Body (INB, October 14-25) will examine a new text of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that proposes options culled out of four years of negotiations. The new text was drawn up by the Brazilian head of the negotiations, Ambassador Luis Felipe de Seixas Corrêa.

‘”This is a critical moment for the negotiations. The technical work is complete and I believe the time has come for countries to show their determination about curbing the tobacco epidemic,’’ said WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. “Since we began work on the FCTC, we have continuously revised tobacco-related death rates. When we started this process, tobacco killed s 4 million people every year. Today that figure stands at 4.9 million people per year. A strong FCTC will save lives – let us all remember that delays means more deaths, and more children falling prey to tobacco,” she added.

While tobacco long was seen as a "rich-country"-issue, over the past four years, the world has realized how tobacco now poses an even greater threat to developing countries. Tobacco companies have focused the marketing and sales efforts on development countries and previously closed markets to compensate for stagnating markets in Europe and North America.

Many countries are calling for strong advertising bans, robust rules to curb smuggling of tobacco between and within countries and the use of price measures to prevent young people from taking to the tobacco habit. Studies show that in some countries, more than 60% of 13-15 year olds use tobacco. Nearly one quarter of 13-15 year old smokers smoked their first cigarette before the age of ten. The majority of them want to stop smoking and have already tried to quit.

Negotiators have also focused on the role of the tobacco industry, especially its attempts to derail the negotiations. A World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution on ''Transparency in Tobacco Control'' invites Member States to be vigilant about tactics used by the tobacco industry and their surrogates to raise issues extraneous to the core of the negotiations or propose irrelevant solutions.

The FCTC is to be ready for adoption by the WHA at its next session in May 2003. A final round of negotiations is set for next February.

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For more information contact:

Ms Helen Green
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3432
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 475 5572
Fax: +41 (22) 791 4832
E-mail: greenh@who.int

Related links

The official FCTC documents can be found at