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U.S. Public Health Groups Call on U.S. Delegation to The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to Take a Leadership Role in Negotiating a Strong International Tobacco Treaty

October 12, 2000

Geneva, Switzerland — Five U.S. public health organizations today released the following statement calling on the U.S. delegation to the World Health Organization's proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to take a leadership role in negotiating a strong international tobacco treaty. The statement was released on the first of two days of public hearings on the proposed treaty, which will be followed by the first formal negotiations on October 16-21.

Public health leaders releasing the statement were Dr. Mohammad Akhter, Executive Director, American Public Health Association; Dr. Alfred Munzer, Past President, American Lung Association; Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, American Cancer Society, and President-elect, International Union Against Cancer; and Dr. Randolph D. Smoak, Jr., President, American Medical Association.


American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

American Medical Association

American Public Health Association

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

As United States public health advocates who have been on the front lines in addressing the epidemic of tobacco-related disease and death, we call on the U.S. delegation to take a leadership role in negotiating a strong Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that reflects the same commitment to tobacco control as this Administration's domestic policies and makes the protection of public health its paramount priority.

We believe that the United States should speak with one unwavering voice at home and abroad on this leading global public health challenge of our time. This Administration has shown unprecedented leadership on tobacco control domestically. It has had the courage to take on the tobacco industry by seeking to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco and to hold the industry accountable for its wrongdoing in a court of law. We have worked side by side with the Administration in trying to advance these and other public health initiatives. Since this Administration has indicated that tobacco control is a top public health priority, we have high expectations for its participation in the Framework Convention.

The magnitude of the global tobacco epidemic demands the same kind of leadership from the United States that our government has provided domestically. As smoking rates have declined in the U.S. and other Western nations, they have exploded in the rest of the world as the tobacco companies have sought new markets and new customers for their deadly products. Already, tobacco use kills about four million people worldwide every year. Based on current trends, the World Health Organization predicts that tobacco will kill ten million people per year by 2030, with 70 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. In fact, more people worldwide are expected to die from tobacco-related illness over the next 30 years than from AIDS, automobile accidents, maternal mortality, homicide and suicide combined.

The leadership of the world's most powerful nation is critical to addressing this global crisis. The stakes are enormous. If the U.S. government fails to support the Framework Convention or urges the adoption of a weak Framework Convention, it will undermine efforts to contain this epidemic in the rest of the world and could even impede domestic progress. On the other hand, if the U.S. government supports a strong Framework Convention, it would be a powerful catalyst for positive policy change to protect public health around the world as well as in the United States.

As home to the largest multinational tobacco company on the globe, Philip Morris, we believe the United States has a special responsibility to take a leadership role. It is no more acceptable to allow Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies to addict children and spread disease and death in Asia, Africa, Latin American, or elsewhere in the world than it is in the United States.

We also call on the U.S. delegation to support the protection and promotion of public health as the paramount goal of the Framework Convention. Commercial and trade interests must not supercede health concerns. It would be simply inconsistent for the United States to make public health protection the priority of its domestic tobacco policy, but allow this priority to be overridden by commercial concerns in its international tobacco policy.

Finally, we call on the U.S. delegation to support the full integration and participation of non-governmental organizations in the Framework Convention process. The involvement of public health organizations at all stages of policy development and implementation has been critical to the success of tobacco control efforts in the United States. These organizations have also been instrumental in establishing credibility and support for these policies among the general public. The full involvement of these organizations is equally critical to the success of and public support for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.