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

Online Q&A
Updated July 2015

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.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is an international treaty, the first under the auspices of WHO, which entered into force on 27 February 2005. It is the first international legal instrument designed to reduce tobacco consumption and tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world. There are 180 Parties to the WHO FCTC which is legally binding for its Contracting Parties, meaning that they are obligated to implement tobacco control measures according to the provisions outlined in the WHO FCTC.

The Convention has provisions that set obligations and guidelines for Parties in the following tobacco control areas: protection of public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry, reduction of demand for tobacco, reduction of supply of tobacco, protection of the environment, liability, as well as scientific and technical cooperation and communication of information.

WHO established the MPOWER measures in 2008 to assist countries to scale up key WHO FCTC demand reduction measures, with a focus on cost-effectiveness, practicality and impact. MPOWER includes six measures, namely:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies,
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke,
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use,
  • Warn people about the dangers of tobacco,
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship,
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

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