You hear about tobacco control and the WHO FCTC, but what are they?

Online Q&A
May 2012

Q: You hear about tobacco control and the WHO FCTC, but what are they?

A: Tobacco control refers to a range of comprehensive measures to protect people from the effects of tobacco consumption and second-hand tobacco smoke. Tobacco consumption is currently the single leading preventable cause of death, which results in the premature death of nearly six million people a year, of which more than five million are users or ex users of tobacco and more than 600 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. If current patterns continue, the number of deaths will increase to eight million a year by 2030.

Key aspects of tobacco control include measures that:

  • protect children and youths from tobacco, especially by preventing them from starting to consume tobacco;
  • offer tobacco users help to quit;
  • protect nonsmokers from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke;
  • warn people about the dangers of tobacco;
  • regulate tobacco products; and
  • ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is an international treaty which was adopted in May 2003 by the 56th World Health Assembly. It is the first legal instrument designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world. The Convention has provisions that set international standards and guidelines for tobacco control in the following areas: tobacco price and tax increases, sales to and by minors, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labeling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

There are over 170 Parties to the WHO FCTC which entered into force on 27 February 2005. On that date, it became legally binding for its Contracting Parties, meaning that they were obligated to implement tobacco control measures according to the provisions outlined in the WHO FCTC.

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