Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Information released by ECOSOC during the meetings on tobacco-related issues

This information has been extracted from a press release issued by ECOSOC on its Substantive Session 2012.

Place: New York, USA
Date: 23 July 2012

"Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the United Nations Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control (document E/2012/70) was Douglas Bettcher, Director of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. He recalled that the agency had established the Task Force in 1999 to intensify a joint United Nations response to and strengthen global support for tobacco control. He also recalled that a WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted in 2003 as an evidence-based tool to save lives with the objective of protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

He said the report reviewed the “demand-side” measures of the Convention — namely, tobacco pricing and taxation, protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, the regulation of the contents of tobacco products, packaging and labelling, education and public awareness, tobacco advertising, and demand reduction measures. It also addressed the Convention’s “supply-side” measures, including the illicit trade in tobacco products and sales to and by minors. It also described the surveillance and reporting of the implementation of the treaty, noting, in particular, that sufficient national capacity and funding for research, monitoring and evaluation was lacking

The report also addressed broader themes regarding multisectoral assistance at the global and country levels, trade-related issues, and areas of collaboration among agencies for the implementation of the Convention. It also made a number of conclusions and recommendations. Among those, he said that inter-agency collaboration was imperative for the effective implementation of the Convention at the country level.

The Task Force could play a key role to ensure policy and programme coherence and to avoid overlap and build strategies on existing policy frameworks and tools. A United Nations-wide, multisectoral approach would be most effective for the successful implementation of the treaty, especially in the context of implementing the Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, he said.

In the discussion that followed, the delegate of El Salvador stressed the crucial role of the Council in tackling new challenges and the importance of strong political will of Member States. The discussion at the Council was timely and was intended to strengthen the follow-up mechanism for major conferences and summits. As for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, his Government had signed the instrument in 2004. Although it was not a party to the convention yet, the country was implementing a national tobacco control law.

The representative of Russian Federation described how his Government was combating tobacco consumption, including through the introduction of legislation, which would, among others, limit the number of public smoking areas. That would mark a breakthrough in public health and the fight against non-communicable diseases. He added that the upcoming Conference of States Parties to the Framework Convention in Seoul would be an important step in the fight against tobacco.

The delegate of Mexico emphasized the need for the Council to reform its working methods to be more effective and relevant in delivering its mandates. The Annual Ministerial Review must be strengthened and broadened to comprehensively implement the internationally agreed development goals. The Council should also mobilize its subsidiary bodies and integrate them in the follow-up mechanism in order to enhance the relevance of the United Nations development system.

The representative of Australia agreed on the need to rethink the Council’s working methods in a manner that would increase participation of civil society and address the issue of system-wide coherence, including country programmes, and the issue of duplication between the Council and the General Assembly. She also stressed the need for strengthening the Council’s relationship with Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. Australia was also implementing the Framework Convention, as non-communicable diseases, including cancers, were now among the biggest killers in the developed world. Their impact was being felt in all countries and region, she added.

Cuba’s representative expressed that delegation’s concern that, when it came to the fight against tobacco, an appropriate balance should be taken into account. Tobacco farmers represented the essential base of his nation’s society and culture. Although Cuba was an active defender of public health, consideration should be given to the context in which a nation had developed. Otherwise, its large low-income population would be affected."