Failure to Ratify Tobacco Treaty Leaves the U.S. Isolated

Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Action on Smoking and Health and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Nov. 3 2005

Washington, DC — Due to its failure to ratify the international tobacco treaty - the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - by a November 8 deadline, the United States will not be allowed to participate when the 100 nations that have ratified the treaty meet to set policy on its implementation in February 2006. Brazil and Benin today brought to 100 the number of countries that have ratified the treaty. It sends the wrong message to the rest of the world that the wealthiest and most powerful nation is failing to lead in addressing a global tobacco epidemic that kills almost five million people worldwide every year and is the leading preventable cause of death in our own country. This means that the U.S. will not be at the table when critical policy decisions are made. We call on President Bush to immediately submit the tobacco treaty to the Senate for ratification, and we call on the Senate to quickly ratify it. By ratifying the treaty and supporting its effective implementation domestically and internationally, the U.S. can again be a leader in protecting public health around the world.

The U.S. cannot participate as a full party when the treaty’s governing body, called the Conference of the Parties, meets for the first time February 6-17, 2006, in Geneva, Switzerland because of its failure to ratify the tobacco treaty by the November 8 deadline. Until it ratifies the treaty, the U.S. will not have a voice as decisions are made regarding implementation, funding and enforcement of the treaty, or in negotiating side agreements on issues of importance to the U.S., such as cigarette smuggling. The U.S. signed the treaty in May 2004 and press reports indicate that it has been undergoing legal review at the State Department since February 2005. We believe that the U.S. has an obligation to lead in addressing the global tobacco epidemic both because of the tremendous toll in health, lives and money that tobacco use takes at home and abroad and because the U.S. is home to Philip Morris, the world’s largest multinational tobacco company.

The fact that the U.S. has signed the tobacco treaty has little practical meaning if the U.S. does not ratify it because only ratification can obligate nations to implement its provisions. The U.S. has long been the world’s scientific leader in developing public health measures that reduce tobacco use. The tobacco treaty enshrines as international law many of the solutions our own scientific community has identified. It commits nations to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints); require large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; implement measures to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke; increase the price of tobacco products; and regulate the content of tobacco products.

U.S. ratification of the treaty would signal that we remain committed to advancing and implementing the science on how best to reduce tobacco use. It would also send a strong message to the rest of the world that the U.S. will put public health ahead of tobacco industry interests and not support the tobacco companies when they challenge other nations’ tobacco control measures as violations of trade agreements. Too often in the past, our government has sided with the tobacco companies in such challenges.

We applaud the 100 countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population, which have ratified the treaty. These countries include major tobacco producing nations such as China 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.

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 world’s nations adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on May 21, 2003, and it became international law on February 27, 2005, after the required minimum of 40 countries had ratified it.

 

Media Contacts