WHO’s FCTC comes into force
On Feb. 27, the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) became international law. It has taken nearly a decade for the WHO to get to this point, but the question remains: Will the FCTC be enforced? Since there is no binding power to implement the FCTC, it is up to local governments to enforce compliance.
The FCTC calls for countries to pass strict tobacco control legislation, including comprehensive bans on advertising (subject to constitutional limitations in each country); restrictions on smoking in public places; the prohibition of descriptive terms that are false and misleading, which may include terms such as “light” and “mild”; and health warnings that cover 30 to 50 percent of cigarette packs. The treaty requires countries to enforce a minimum smoking age of 18 and restrict access by minors to vending machines. The FCTC also encourages WHO member countries to raise tobacco taxes in order to discourage smoking.
Some governments have already shown signs that they are taking the FCTC seriously. In Japan, the health ministry has created a position espe-cially for overseeing implementation of the treaty. The responsibilities include coordinating overall anti-smoking measures, implementing measures to combat secondhand smoke and overseeing other provisions of the FCTC.
Armenia has implemented new laws ahead of the FCTC. In January, the government established tar and nicotine requirements and banned the sale of tobacco products to minors.
Negotiations for a global tobacco treaty began in 1996. Four years later, the first draft was presented to WHO member states, but it wasn’t until May 2003 that the FCTC was formally adopted. The treaty was opened for signatures from June 16, 2003, until June 29, 2004, during which time 168 countries signed it. Next, 40 countries had to ratify the treaty in order for it to become international law. Norway set the stage by becoming the first country to ratify the treaty in June 2003. Nearly a year and a half later, Peru became the 40th country to ratify the FCTC.
The countries that have ratified the treaty include major markets such as France, Germany and Japan, as well as a handful of small island nations such as Palau and San Marino. However, at press time, neither China nor the U.S.—the world’s two largest cigarette markets—had joined the group.