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ATS Fighting for Tobacco Control Around the World

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization, was first approved in 2003. The treaty, which requires ratifying countries to adopt such measures as a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion, rotating health warnings on tobacco packaging, initiatives to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke and taxes to reduce tobacco consumption, has been ratified by 176 countries representing nearly 90 percent of the world’s population, making it one of the most widely endorsed public health treaties ever proposed.

The American Thoracic Society, represented by Alfred Munzer, MD, has been involved in the FCTC since negotiations began in October 2000. Dr. Munzer, who also serves on the ATS Tobacco Action Committee, represents the ATS at meetings of the Conference of Parties (COP), the convention’s governing body, which includes representatives from all ratifying nations. The next meeting of the COP will take place in Seoul, South Korea in from 12 - 17 November 2012. The COP is expected to adopt a Protocol on the Illicit Trade of Tobacco and guidelines that delineate the best practices for the taxation as a means to reduce the demand for tobacco products.

The ATS is also a member of the Framework Convention Alliance, a coalition of more than 350 non-governmental organizations in over 100 countries formed to support the negotiation, ratification and implementation of the FCTC.

"Tobacco use is the world’s number one preventable killer, causing more than five million deaths annually worldwide," said Dr. Munzer. "In addition, certain groups including racial and ethnic minorities, women, youth, blue-collar and service workers, and others with low levels of education, are at particularly high risk for tobacco use and exposure and suffer a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths."

As demand for tobacco decreased in the United States and other parts of the industrialized world, tobacco companies began to target low- and middle-income countries as new markets. Although the U.S. has not ratified the FCTC, this should not prevent the U.S. from taking a global leadership position in tobacco control. To this end, ATS members should continue their efforts in tobacco control advocacy, tobacco control research, and tobacco control training.

Efforts by Big Tobacco to undermine anti-tobacco campaigns and subvert the Framework Convention have been very aggressive, with high-profile legal actions targeting Uruguay, Norway, Australia, and Turkey, all of which have introduced strong tobacco control measures. In response to these challenges, the COP unanimously adopted a declaration supporting the sovereign right of ratifying nations to enact public health measures, including the regulation of intellectual property rights (such as tobacco packaging) as part of their tobacco control programs.

For more information on the treaty, please visit www.who.int/tobacco/framework/en.