WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: why is it important?

Online Q&A
May 2012

Q: Why is it so important that countries support and implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control? How can they make a difference and work for a tobacco-free world?

A: The tobacco epidemic is the leading preventable cause of death. It kills nearly six million people per year, of whom more than five million are users or ex-users and more than 600 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. If current smoking patterns continue, the annual death toll will increase to eight million by 2030, with more than 80% of the deaths taking place in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco kills many people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce.

Increased trade, foreign investment, global marketing and other complex international phenomena have led to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. As the epidemic transcends national borders, its control requires international cooperation and multilateral regulation.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) was developed as a global response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. Adopted in June of 2003, the WHO FCTC quickly became one of the most widely embraced treaties in United Nations' history, becoming international binding law on 27 February 2005.

There is no doubt that reducing the rates of uptake and consumption of tobacco will save lives and that the WHO FCTC is the evidence-based tool with which to do it. It has been projected that with a progressive 50% reduction in uptake and consumption rates, as many as 200 million lives could be saved by the year 2050 ― and hundreds of millions more thereafter.

By becoming Parties and implementing the provisions of the treaty where it counts most – at country level – countries are working towards a tobacco-free world and towards millions of lives saved.

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