Feb. 26 2010
Washington, D.C. — The fifth anniversary of the international treaty to address the global tobacco epidemic presents a significant opportunity for President Obama to continue his strong leadership on tobacco control by submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification and urging its quick approval.
President Obama and Congress have already demonstrated clear and committed leadership on the tobacco problem by enacting the historic law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing, and by raising cigarette taxes to finance health insurance for low-income children. Now, by ratifying the tobacco control treaty, the President and the Senate have the opportunity to lead in the global struggle against tobacco use
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the strongest, most coordinated action the world's nations have ever taken against tobacco use and its devastating health and economic consequences. It took effect on February 27, 2005.
To date, 168 countries have ratified or otherwise become parties to the treaty. It has served as a positive catalyst for change throughout the world. While the United States has signed the pact, it has never been submitted to the Senate for ratification. The United States and Indonesia, which are both large manufacturers and consumers of tobacco products, remain the two most populous nations that have not ratified the pact.
It is in both the United States' interest and the world's interest that the U.S. ratify the treaty. Until the U.S. ratifies the treaty, it cannot participate in its implementation or in negotiations over critical issues such as cigarette smuggling — a global problem that funds organized crime and terrorist organizations, and costs governments, including the United States, billions in lost revenue.
As the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation, it is critical that the U.S. provide leadership in addressing a tobacco epidemic that already kills 5.4 million people a year worldwide. The epidemic is worsening, especially in the developing world where more than 80 percent of tobacco-caused deaths will occur in the coming decades. Unless urgent action is taken, one billion people will die from tobacco use this century.
The U.S. should support effective implementation of the treaty by sharing its scientific expertise and other resources and by opposing tobacco industry efforts to undermine the treaty by challenging tobacco control measures as trade violations, as the industry has often done. With the tobacco industry targeting developing countries as new markets, it is imperative that the U.S. and other richer nations take action to help them protect the health of their citizens.
The treaty commits nations to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including: Bans on all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships (or to the extent allowed by constitutions) and on misleading cigarette descriptions such as "light" and "low-tar"; large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; higher tobacco taxes; and laws requiring smoke-free workplaces and public places.