Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
To fashion a global approach to the tobacco epidemic, in 1999 the member countries of WHO unanimously endorsed the start of negotiations on a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC is the world's first tobacco control treaty and has the potential to have a historic impact on global public health. At present, 4 million people a year die from a tobacco-related disease. If current trends continue, 10 million people will die of such diseases each year by the year 2030.
The sixth and final round of negotiations on the FCTC came to a close on 28 February 2003. Nearly 170 WHO members negotiated the wording of the final draft text, hammering out differences until the last minute. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is due to be adopted at WHO's annual Assembly in May 2003.
Germany and China have joined the United States in expressing reservations. These concerns - in particular from the United States - mean that ministers may be under pressure to renegotiate parts of the text at the May meeting - and thus risk unravelling the entire accord. The cigarette industry has argued that the FCTC is in breach of its trademark rights.
However, a strong FCTC would be a very important step in tobacco control, both globally and in individual countries. Many problems related to tobacco control, such as smuggling and advertising, cannot be resolved by single nations acting alone and must be addressed through international cooperation. A number of related protocols on more specific topics will probably also be negotiated, either in parallel with the Convention or subsequently. Issues that might be addressed in early protocols include: advertising, sponsorship and smuggling. Later protocols might address topics such as agricultural policies, product regulation and pricing.
A framework convention is a legally binding international treaty establishing general guidelines and principles for international governance on a particular issue. Separate, more detailed legal instruments called protocols can be attached to a framework convention to address specific aspects of an issue. A number of examples of this framework convention/protocol model exist in the environmental field. A framework convention does not have a technical meaning in international law but, like a treaty, it is legally binding on countries that ratify it.