Nov. 30 2004
Washington, DC — The international tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), will become international law in 90 days now that the required 40 countries have ratified the treaty. Peru today became the fortieth nation to ratify the treaty and many more countries are nearing ratification as well. The entry into force of the tobacco treaty represents an historic step toward reducing tobacco’s terrible toll in lives and health around the world. Unfortunately, while the U.S. has signed the treaty, the Administration has yet to send it to the Senate for ratification. We urge our government to join the growing number of countries that have ratified the tobacco treaty.
The United States’ failure to ratify the treaty has left it standing on the sidelines and out of the international debate on addressing what is the leading preventable cause of death both in our country and around the globe. U.S. ratification of the treaty is critical to ensuring that the U.S. is seen as a leader in protecting public health around the world. Unless the U.S. ratifies the treaty shortly, it will not be able to participate in negotiating side agreements on issues such as cigarette smuggling that are of importance to the U.S. As home to Philip Morris, the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, the U.S. has a special obligation to provide global leadership in reducing the alarming rates of death and disease caused by tobacco use. The U.S. has historically been a leader in protecting public health around the world and can play that role again by ratifying the tobacco treaty and supporting its effective implementation domestically and internationally. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has said, “I'm hopeful we can get this treaty to pass on a bipartisan basis.” The Administration should waste no time in working to achieve that goal.
Ratification and effective implementation of the treaty are critical to turning the tide of the global tobacco epidemic. Tobacco use already kills nearly five million people worldwide every year. If current trends continue, it will kill 10 million a year within two decades, with 70 percent of those deaths in developing nations. These nations have been the primary targets of the tobacco companies as smoking rates have slowly declined in more developed nations.
The treaty gives nations powerful new tools to protect the health of their citizens from the tobacco industry’s deceptions and slick marketing. It requires ratifying nations to adopt two policies proven to reduce smoking and save lives: a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints (such as the U.S.), and large health warning labels that cover at least 30 percent of cigarette packs. The treaty also provides nations with a roadmap for enacting strong, science-based policies in other areas, including secondhand smoke protections, tobacco taxation, tobacco product regulation and measures to combat cigarette smuggling.
We applaud the 40 countries that have ratified the treaty for their leadership in reducing tobacco use. These 40 countries include major tobacco producing nations such as India and Japan; countries with strong domestic tobacco control policies, such as Thailand, Australia and Norway; and countries hoping to use the treaty to improve laws and regulations, such as France and Mexico.
While ratification of the treaty is an important step forward, it still represents only the beginning of the process of reducing tobacco use and saving lives around the world. Now it is critical that individual nations resist the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence domestic legislation and approve strong measures that effectively implement the treaty. The U.S. should be a leader in these efforts and demonstrate that it is strongly committed to global tobacco control efforts despite its repeated efforts during the treaty negotiations to weaken almost every provision and support positions consistent with those of the tobacco industry. The U.S. should set an example by ratifying and implementing the treaty and providing financial and technical assistance to other nations in implementing it.