What is the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)?
The FCTC is a legally binding treaty which was negotiated by the 192 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO). The world's first public health treaty, the FCTC contains a host of measures designed to reduce the devastating health and economic impacts of tobacco. The final agreement, reached in May 2003 after nearly four years of negotiations, provides the basic tools for countries to enact comprehensive tobacco control legislation. Key provisions in the treaty encourage countries to:
- enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
- obligate the placement of rotating health warnings on tobacco packaging that cover at least 30 percent (but ideally 50 percent or more) of the principal display areas and can include pictures or pictograms;
- ban the use of misleading and deceptive terms such as "light" and "mild";
- protect citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in workplaces, public transport and indoor public places;
- combat smuggling, including the placing of final destination markings on packs; and
- increase tobacco taxes
The FCTC also contains numerous other measures designed to promote and protect public health, such as mandating the disclosure of ingredients in tobacco products, providing treatment for tobacco addiction, encouraging legal action against the tobacco industry, and promoting research and the exchange of information among countries.
The New Zealand Government is a ratified party to the FCTC.
In addition to specific obligations contained within the FCTC, the process of negotiating the FCTC has already strengthened tobacco control efforts in scores of countries by:
- giving governments greater access to scientific research and examples of best practice;
- motivating national leaders to rethink priorities as they respond to an ongoing international process;
- engaging powerful ministries, such as finance and foreign affairs, more deeply in tobacco control;
- raising public awareness about the strategies and tactics employed by the multinational tobacco companies;
- mobilising technical and financial support for tobacco control at both national and international levels;
- making it politically easier for developing countries to resist the tobacco industry;
- mobilising non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other members of civil society in support of stronger tobacco control.
The FCTC has two specific references to Indigenous Peoples.
The Parties to this Convention are: Deeply concerned about the high levels of smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption by indigenous peoples
The Guiding Principles - Article 4, 2 (c):
What is the timetable for the FCTC?
To achieve the objective of this Convention and its protocols and to implement its provisions, the Parties shall be guided, inter alia, by the principles set out below:
2. Strong political commitment is necessary to develop and support, at the national, regional and international levels, comprehensive multisectoral measures and coordinated responses, taking into consideration:
(c) the need to take measures to promote the participation of indigenous individuals and communities in the development, implementation and evaluation of tobacco control programmes that are socially and culturally appropriate to their needs and perspectives.
The FCTC was adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and was closed for signature on 29 June 2004. On November 29, 2004, Peru deposited the fortieth instrument of ratification at the UN in New York, the minimum number required for the treaty to enter into force. Within a year of entering into force, a subsidiary body - the Conference of the Parties - will begin meeting to review national reports, provide further guidance on proper implementation of the FCTC, initiate protocol negotiations and promote the mobilisation of financial resources.
Framework conventions and protocols are legally binding only on countries which ratify them. The onus will be on national governments to implement the FCTC and protocols. How effective the FCTC will be in reversing the tobacco epidemic will be determined by the how fully governments implement the obligations contained in the FCTC.
International action to tackle the tobacco epidemic is needed for a number of reasons:
- The tobacco epidemic is an international problem. Developing countries are set to bear the brunt of the problem in the future. At present there are about 5 million deaths a year worldwide due to tobacco-related disease, with the balance split approximately between developed and developing countries. By 2030, if present trends continue unchecked, the figure will have increased to 10 million deaths per year, with 70 % of these deaths taking place in developing countries.
- The tobacco industry is a global industry. Faced with increased regulation and greater awareness of the health risks of smoking in Europe and North America, the tobacco multinationals are stepping up their activities in developing countries in search of new markets.
A number of aspects of the tobacco problem are particularly transboundary in nature and can only be dealt with effectively by international action, including:
- Tobacco industry marketing campaigns executed across a number of different countries simultaneously, including through satellite television;
- Smuggling of cigarettes, often coordinated by the tobacco industry on an international level, involving operations in numerous countries.
In its landmark report, Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control , the World Bank states that:
"...the negative effects of tobacco control on employment have been greatly overstated. Tobacco production is a small part of most economies. For all but a very few agrarian countries heavily dependent on tobacco farming there would be no net loss of jobs, and there might even be job gains if global tobacco consumption fell. This is because money once spent on tobacco would be spent on other goods and services, thereby generating more jobs."
However, the report concludes that there are a small number of countries whose economies are heavily dependent on tobacco farming, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, for whom a global fall in tobacco demand would result in job losses. But such a decline, the Bank points out, will not take place for decades, even under the most optimistic scenarios giving governments ample time to plan an orderly transition away from tobacco.