First Global Public Health Treaty to Take Effect

19 Feb 2005

First Modern-day Global Public Health Treaty to Take Effect
Despite Years of Intense Industry Lobbying, Tobacco Treaty Becomes International Law Sunday, 27 February

Once Again Out of Step with International Community, US Has Not Ratified Landmark Agreement

GENEVA—Only 11 days after the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force, the groundbreaking global tobacco treaty known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will take effect on 27 February 2005. The treaty will change the way giant tobacco corporations operate around the world and set an international precedent for prioritizing public health over commercial interests. As the global community takes significant steps to protect people’s lives, public interest organizations are urging countries that have not yet ratified, including the US, to do so. To date, fifty-seven countries have ratified the global tobacco treaty. Many more ratifications are expected in coming months.

“This treaty will save millions of lives,” says Kathryn Mulvey, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact). “It demonstrates that working together, the nations of the world can protect people from irresponsible and dangerous corporate practices. Attempts by Philip Morris/Altria, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) to prevent an effective treaty from entering into force have proved futile,” she adds.

While the Bush Administration signed the FCTC in May 2004, the US is notably absent from the list of countries that have ratified the treaty. Throughout the FCTC negotiating process, the US government consistently took positions that would dilute the treaty at the expense of people’s lives around the world. The US has a long history of signing but not ratifying international humanitarian agreements, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“February 2005 is a landmark month for international cooperation on critical issues of protecting people and our natural resources, and the US is missing the boat. As both the global tobacco treaty and the Kyoto Protocol take effect with the US on the sidelines, we are calling on our government to join with the global community in prioritizing people’s lives over the profits of giant corporations,” says Mulvey.

Throughout the negotiations, countries of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific and Caribbean Islands united to make the treaty a reality. The FCTC, initiated by the World Health Organization, bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and protects public health policy from tobacco industry interference. It also sets precedents for international regulation of other industries that threaten health, the environment and human rights.

“This is a historic moment in the movement challenging irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the world. Now that this global treaty has become international law, it is no longer business as usual for Big Tobacco. With millions of lives at stake, we urge countries that have not yet ratified to do so without delay, particularly those that took the lead during treaty negotiations,” says Akinbode Oluwafemi of Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria.

Throughout the treaty process, the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) and other NGOs encouraged, prodded and pressured countries to stand firm in the face of Big Tobacco’s enormous political and economic clout. Relying on organizing techniques including International Weeks of Resistance to Tobacco Transnationals, Marlboro Man Awards, and the release of a number of reports, NATT has played a key role in exposing and challenging the attempts of giant tobacco corporations and their political allies in wealthy countries to derail the FCTC. As the treaty takes effect, NATT will continue to watchdog the tobacco industry’s interference and support countries in ratifying and implementing the treaty.

Tobacco corporations like Philip Morris/Altria, BAT and JTI continue to use dirty tricks to try to derail the treaty. The Consumer Information Network, a NATT member in Kenya, recently helped expose BAT’s sponsorship of a beach holiday for members of Parliament. BAT lobbied the parliamentarians to water down key provisions of the Tobacco Control Bill currently under consideration in Kenya, which has ratified the FCTC. Countries like Kenya and must be vigilant in protecting their health policies from tobacco industry interference, in accordance with the treaty’s obligations.

The 57 countries that have ratified the FCTC are: Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cook Islands, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Qatar, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Viet Nam.


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