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US Has Not Yet Joined the WHO Tobacco Treaty

WHO Tobacco Treaty Set to Become Law

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND -- December 17, 2004 -- Peru became the 40th country to ratify the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (the WHO FCTC or Treaty) last month, allowing the document to go into effect as international law on February 28, 2005. Treaty supporters include industrialized as well as developing countries from all over the world.

The WHO FCTC sets standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labeling, and second-hand smoke. Specific provisions require nations to:

  • create programs to discourage tobacco use and prevent tobacco addiction;
  • provide protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces and indoor public areas;
  • carry out tax and price policies that would reduce tobacco use;
  • prohibit or restrict duty-free international tobacco sales;
  • adopt guidelines for measuring, testing, and regulating tobacco emissions;
  • disclose the dangers of tobacco and cigarette emissions to the public, and train health care, community, and social workers about tobacco hazards;
  • establish large, clear, visible health warnings on cigarettes and other tobacco products;
  • ensure that tobacco packaging is not false, misleading, or deceptive;
  • restrict illicit trade in tobacco products by monitoring cross-border tobacco sales;
  • restrict cigarette and tobacco sales to minors; and
  • prohibit tobacco advertising, except in a country in which the constitution does not allow advertising bans.

Although the United States initially signed the WHO FCTC, it has not yet ratified or approved the document. Therefore, the United States is not bound by its provisions. Only countries who officially ratify, approve, or become official parties to the WHO FCTC are required to follow its rules.

Countries may decide to ratify, accept, or approve the WHO FCTC at any time. See the World Health Organization web site for more details and an updated list of all nations that have agreed to be subject to this treaty.

The Hazards of Tobacco

The World Health Organization reports that tobacco use is the second major cause of death in the world, resulting in about 5 million fatalities per year. If current smoking trends continue, tobacco will cause about 10 million deaths each year by 2020 (Why is Tobacco a Health Priority?, WHO ).

In the United States, over 400,000 people die annually from cigarette smoking; one in every five deaths is related to smoking (Cigarette Smoking-Related Mortality, National Center For Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion). Tobacco use causes lung cancer, emphysema, heart attacks and strokes. It poses serious health problems not only for smokers, but for those who are exposed to someone else's smoke.

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