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UN global treaty to curb tobacco use fortified

Officials fortify a UN global treaty meant to curb tobacco use and save lives

More than 100 countries agreed this month to a series of concrete steps that will propel a United Nations global treaty closer toward its goal of saving lives by curbing tobacco use among the world’s 1.3 billion smokers.

Among the measures hammered out during the two-week conference in Geneva were moves to study economically viable alternatives to tobacco growing and production as well as developing legally binding instruments to monitor cross-border advertising and illicit trade. The measures are intended to further strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since it entered into force nearly one year ago.

Conference President Juan Martabit of Chile said all the delegates gathered at this first meeting of the Conference of Parties, the Treaty’s governing body, shared the urgency of the problems of worldwide tobacco use. “I am confident we are on track to save millions of lives in the near future, thanks to this Treaty,” said Mr. Martabit, who is Chile’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva.

The delegates agreed to establish the permanent secretariat of the Treaty within WHO headquarters in Geneva. The delegates settled on a two-year $8 million budget, which would be funded through voluntary assessed contributions.

As the second major cause of death in the world, tobacco is now responsible for about 5 million deaths annually, according to WHO, which estimates that 84 per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers live in developing and transitional economy countries.

The WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative believes the most cost-effective strategies to curb tobacco consumption are population-wide public policies, like tobacco advertising bans, tobacco tax and price increases, smoke-free environments in all public and workplaces, and graphic health messages on tobacco packaging.

All of these measures are required under the Treaty’s provisions, including some with deadlines. For example, from the Treaty’s entry into force, countries have three years to enforce health warnings on tobacco products and five years to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

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