Jun. 27 2007
Washington, DC — Advocates are urging governments to commit to adopting 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and public places when their representatives convene at a major global conference in Bangkok, Thailand, June 30-July 6. Governments are meeting to set standards for implementing the international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
There is already a growing global movement to enact smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking - and deadly secondhand smoke - in indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places. On July 1, England will become the latest country to implement a national smoke-free law, joining the rest of the United Kingdom. As a result, more than 200 million people worldwide will be protected by 100 percent smoke-free laws.
The Bangkok meeting, called the Conference of the Parties and convened by the World Health Organization, is critical to expanding the smoke-free movement to all nations.
Health advocates want official delegates to adopt international standards and push for comprehensive smoke-free laws as the only effective way to protect people from secondhand smoke. The proposed standards state that "there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke," that only "100 percent smoke-free environments" can protect health and that "all people should be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke."
These standards will serve as best practices and shape how governments should meet their treaty commitments.
"All people have a right to breathe smoke-free air," said Cassandra Welch, coordinator of the Global Smokefree Partnership, a multipartner initiative that promotes effective smoke-free air policies worldwide. "Smoke-free is the future, but the pace of change depends on what governments do at this critical meeting. If strong, science-based standards are adopted calling for 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and public places, we can save millions of lives worldwide."
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first public health treaty, took effect in February 2005 and has already been ratified by 148 countries.
The treaty commits ratifying nations to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use that include: banning all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints); placing large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; implementing measures to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke; increasing tobacco product prices; combating cigarette smuggling; and regulating the content of tobacco products.
Article 8 of the treaty, on protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, states, "Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability." It calls on ratifying nations to support measures "providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places."
"Only laws that require comprehensive indoor smoking bans are effective," said Shoba John, Chairperson of the Global Smokefree Partnership. "The scientific evidence is indisputable that secondhand smoke causes premature death and serious diseases in both adults and children who do not smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke."
Secondhand tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. Health and scientific authorities around the world have concluded that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and serious respiratory illnesses among adults and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children.