World’s First Global Public Health Treaty Set to Take Effect – begins a new era of international tobacco control

25 Feb 2005

Enactment signals a new era of international tobacco control American Cancer Society Urges U.S. Ratification

WASHINGTON  – After years of negotiation, the international tobacco control community is set to celebrate a significant victory in the campaign to reduce the global health burden of tobacco-related diseases as the first modern-day global public health treaty takes effect this Sunday, February 27th among the nations that have ratified it. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) remains the first treaty ever negotiated under the authority of the World Health Organization. The FCTC sets minimum standards for tobacco control policies and encourages member nations to adopt stronger laws.

The FCTC was unanimously adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2003 and has since proven to be one of the most rapidly embraced treaties in United Nations history with 168 nations signing on and 57 countries ratifying it.

“Sunday marks the dawn of a new era in global tobacco control,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer, American Cancer Society and president, International Union Against Cancer. “The FCTC stands as testimony to the commitment of the World Health Organization, governments and civil society to reverse the course of this global pandemic.”

While the rest of the world moves forward with the FCTC, it is unclear whether the United States will take part. The United States signed the treaty in 2004, indicating its general support, but the Administration has not taken the next step of forwarding the FCTC to the United States Senate for consideration. A two-thirds majority approval by the Senate is required for the U.S. to ratify the treaty and become a voting member of the FCTC?s international governing body.

“It would be a tragedy for the United States not to join the FCTC. Our nation should be leading on this issue, not watching from the sidelines. We should ratify the convention, implement it, and help low-income nations do the same,” said Stephen F. Sener, MD, national volunteer president, American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society is a strong supporter of the FCTC and encourages swift U.S. ratification.

The FCTC is especially critical to low-income nations, which multinational tobacco companies have targeted as their most important growth markets. It gives these nations powerful new tools to protect the health of their citizens from the tobacco industry?s deceptive advertising and lobbying. The treaty requires ratifying nations to eliminate all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, with a narrow exception for nations such as the United States, whose constitutions may not allow a total ban. It also requires warning labels to occupy at least 30 percent of the front and back of every pack of cigarettes sold; commits nations to protect nonsmokers from secondhand tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces; urges strict regulation of tobacco product contents; and calls for higher tobacco taxes, global coordination to fight tobacco smuggling, and promotion of tobacco prevention, cessation and research programs internationally.

Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, claiming the lives of an estimated 4.9 million people each year — more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. This global death toll is expected to rise sharply to 10 million deaths a year by 2020, due to the rapid growth in smoking rates in low-income nations. The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people alive today, including 250 million children, will die premature deaths because of tobacco use. In the United States, about 440,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and nearly one-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to tobacco use.

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 14 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit

Colleen Wilber
American Cancer Society
Phone: 202-661-5772
Email: [email protected]

Notes to editors:

ACS can facilitate media contact with U.S. and international FCTC experts. A list of countries that have ratified the FCTC can be found at

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