Tobacco Treaty Has Great Potential… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Tobacco Treaty Has Great Potential to Reverse Global Tobacco Epidemic

Statement of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 02, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The world's nations today have taken historic action to contain and reverse the global tobacco epidemic by agreeing on an international tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The treaty is especially strong in requiring 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, and a requirement of large health warning labels on cigarette packaging. While the treaty does not require the adoption of other policies that it recommends, it does provide nations with a roadmap for enacting strong, science-based policies that can save lives and improve health. The key to the treaty's success is whether individual nations now implement the strong measures it contains. If they do so, we will be able to look back on today as a turning point in reducing the terrible toll in health, lives and money that tobacco use takes around the world.

The strengthening of the treaty in the past two weeks of negotiations is a tribute to the courage and persistence of developing countries that have resisted efforts by the United States to weaken the treaty. The actions of the United States have been disappointing, especially its persistent efforts to torpedo the advertising ban and warning label requirements that are the strongest provisions of the treaty. To the very end, the United States supported positions that protected the interests of the tobacco industry rather than public health around the world. The U.S. delegation continuously stood in the way of proposals that included tough, enforceable provisions and pressured developing countries that fought for a strong treaty. The treaty would have been even stronger if not for the U.S. efforts.

Now that the treaty has been negotiated, we urge the United States not to stand in the way of its effective implementation. The U.S. should sign and ratify the treaty and implement those provisions that are stronger than current U.S. law. U.S. international tobacco policy should support effective implementation of the treaty in other nations. It is especially critical that the U.S. reject tobacco industry efforts to use international trade agreements to challenge other nations' tobacco control laws. The U.S. should also agree to exempt tobacco products from future free trade agreements. By taking such actions, the U.S. can begin to undo the tremendous harm it has done during the treaty negotiations.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are 1.1 billion smokers in the world today, a number expected to rise to 1.64 billion by the year 2025. About four million people die each year from tobacco use. If current trends continue, this figure will reach about 10 million per year by the early 2030s, with 70 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.