Geneva, May 21 (Reuters): More than 190 countries today approved the first international treaty against smoking, including an advertising ban, aimed at breaking a habit that kills nearly five million people a year.
The World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the WHO’s 192 countries, unanimously adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that commits them to fighting the “devastating...consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure”. “Today, we are acting to save billions of lives and protect people’s health for generations to come. This is a historic moment,” said WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland.
The pact, which was agreed by member states in March after three years of negotiations, requires countries to ban or set tough restrictions on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion within five years.
It also lays down guidelines on health warnings on cigarette packets, recommends tax increases on tobacco products and calls for a crackdown on cigarette smuggling, amongst other measures.The UN health agency says 4.9 million people die each year from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions linked to smoking and that the toll is likely to exceed 10 million by 2020, with 70 percent of the victims in the developing world.
“The spread of the tobacco epidemic is a global problem with serious consequences for public health that calls for an effective, appropriate and comprehensive international response,” the treaty declares.
Many of the pact’s policies are already applied in rich countries, but for much of the developing world it marks the first attempt to fight what the WHO says is already the biggest cause of premature death. The chairman of the pact’s drafting committee, ambassador Luiz Seixas de Correa of Brazil, said it would probably take around a year to achieve the 40 ratifications the pact needs to come into force.
An health ministry official confirmed that India is a signatory to the international treaty against smoking. Indian Parliament last month had enacted a legislation banning advertisement glorifying smoking. The Bill banning advertisements of cigarettes and other tobacco products was passed by the Rajya Sabha on April 9 and the Lok Sabha on April 30.