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U.S. to Miss Critical Global Meeting on Tobacco Treaty; Health Groups Call on Administration, Senate to Support Ratification

Statement of American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Action on Smoking and Health and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 02, 2006

Washington, DC — On February 6, more than 100 countries will convene in Geneva for the first implementation meeting of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international tobacco treaty. Because it has failed to ratify the treaty, the U.S. will be left out of important decisions regarding implementation, funding and enforcement of the treaty and the negotiation of side agreements on issues of importance to the U.S., such as cigarette smuggling.

It is unacceptable that the United States, as the wealthiest and most powerful nation, is not leading the fight against the tobacco epidemic that is the leading preventable cause of death in our own country and kills almost five million people worldwide every year. 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 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. To date, 123 countries have ratified the tobacco treaty, including China, the world’s largest grower and biggest consumer of tobacco, and other major tobacco-producing and consuming nations such as France, India, Japan and Mexico.

The U.S. signed the treaty in May 2004. Administration spokespeople have asserted that the U.S. supports the treaty and wants to see it ratified, but so far the treaty has languished at the State Department and is “still under inter-agency review”. As home to Philip Morris, the world’s largest multinational tobacco company and the leading exporter of the deadly products that cause the tobacco epidemic, the United States has an even greater responsibility to take the lead in addressing this important public health issue.

The fact that the U.S. has signed the tobacco treaty has little practical meaning because only ratification can obligate a nation to implement its provisions. The tobacco treaty commits ratifying nations to many of the solutions our own scientific community has identified, including a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (with an exception for nations with constitutional constraints); large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; measures to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke; tobacco product price increases; and regulation of the content of tobacco products.

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.