Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Frequently asked questions on the WHO FCTC and the context in which it was negotiated

1. Why is it necessary to attempt to regulate tobacco internationally?

Tobacco needs to be regulated internationally because globalization has facilitated the spread of the tobacco epidemic through a complex mix of factors that transcend national borders. This means that countries cannot regulate tobacco solely through domestic legislation.

2. How many people in the world smoke?

Currently, it is estimated that there are 1.3 billion smokers in the world. Of those, 84% live in developing and transitional economy countries.

3. What is the estimated death toll due to tobacco?

Currently, an estimated 4.9 million people die annually as a result of tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco, is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide. When consumed as indicated by the manufacturers, tobacco kills one half of its regular users.

4. What tobacco control intervention has been proven to be the most cost-effective?

Recent economic studies have shown that increasing prices through taxes on tobacco products has been proven to be the most cost-effective tobacco control intervention. The World Bank estimated that a 10% increase in tobacco prices would, on average, result in a reduction of 4% of the demand in high-income countries and 8% in lower-income countries. Because the demand reduction is smaller than the price increase, tax revenues would not decrease in the short and medium term.

5. What price measure does WHO and the World Bank recommend?

WHO and the World Bank recommend regular increases in taxes on tobacco products to ensure that the price of all these products increases by at least 5% over inflation every year.

6. What is a framework convention?

A framework convention is a binding international legal instrument which establishes broad commitments and a general system of governance for an issue area.

7. Which supply reduction measures are addressed by the WHO FCTC?

  • Elimination of illicit trade in tobacco products
  • Banning of tobacco sales to and by minors
  • Agricultural diversification and the promotion of alternative livelihoods

8. Advertising, promotion and sponsorship: what does the WHO FCTC require from the Parties to the Convention?

The WHO FCTC requires Parties, in accordance with their respective constitution and constitutional principles, to undertake a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of the WHO FCTC's entry into force for that Party. Where total prohibition would be unconstitutional, the WHO FCTC requires Parties to apply all constitutional restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

9. On the issue of "Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products", what are the main steps required by the WHO FCTC?

States Party to the WHO FCTC must take steps to mark all tobacco packages for tracing purposes and to indicate their country of destination. Parties must also cooperate with each other in monitoring and controlling the movement of products and investigating their diversion.

10. As an international treaty, what makes the WHO FCTC unique?

The question of liability has never been included in provisions of any other framework convention. In addition, the WHO FCTC is the only United Nations addictive substance treaty to include explicit demand-reduction provisions.

11. What do “ratification”, "approval" and "acceptance" mean?

Ratification is the international act by which countries that have already signed a convention formally state their consent to be bound by it. Acceptance and approval are the legal equivalent of ratification and they both apply to countries that do not require national ratification of international treaties.

12. If a country did not sign the WHO FCTC by 29 June 2004, the closing date for signature, is it forever precluded from becoming a Party?

No. Countries that have not signed, wishing to become a Party to the Convention after 29 June 2004 may still do so by means of accession, which is a one-step process equivalent to ratification. For the signatories to the Convention, there is no deadline for ratification.

13. Can the European Community (EC) ratify the WHO FCTC?

The EC can become a Party to the treaty by means of formal confirmation, which has the same effect as ratification.

14. When the European Community confirms the WHO FCTC, will it be equivalent to all its members ratifying?

No. The European Community and its member countries have competences that are mutually exclusive. The member countries of the European Union and the European Community as a regional economic integration organization will become WHO FCTC Contracting Parties as separate and distinct entities.

15. When will the WHO FCTC enter into force?

The WHO FCTC will enter into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of the fortieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval, formal confirmation or accession with the Depositary.

16. According to the WHO FCTC, what are the main characteristics that health warnings on cigarettes packages should have?

Health warnings should be 50% or more of the principal display areas of the pack, but they must not be less than 30%. These health warnings must be rotating and may include pictures or pictograms. In addition, cigarette packages must contain information on constituents and emissions, and such information must be in the principal language (or languages) of the country.

17. What action should be taken by countries in order to facilitate the implementation of the WHO FCTC?

Countries should outline national tobacco control strategies, taking into consideration national profile, socio-political environment and global evidence. Countries should also establish national coordination of tobacco control policy and programme development by means of a multisectoral committee or a national focal point.

18. What is the task of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control?

The WHO FCTC requires the IGWG to consider and prepare proposals on procedural, institutional, financial and budgetary issues identified in the Convention for consideration and adoption, as appropriate, by the first session of the Conference of the Parties. The Conference of the Parties (COP), formed by all Parties to the Treaty, will take place during the year following the entry into force of the WHO FCTC.