TWN Info Service on Health Issues (July 07/01)

11 July 2007

WHO tackles illicit tobacco trade

At the recent second Conference of Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control member states decided to launch negotiations on a protocol on the illicit trade of tobacco products and adopt guidelines to establish 100% smoke-free places. The article below is reproduced with the permission of South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) #6288, 9 July 2007.

With best wishes
Evelyne Hong

Health: WHO takes up illicit tobacco trade, smoke-free environments

By Kanaga Raja, Geneva, 6 July 2007

The parties to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) have unanimously decided to begin negotiating a protocol on the illicit trade of tobacco products and adopt guidelines that stipulate 100% smoke-free places and workplaces.

According to a WHO press release, the decisions were taken at a meeting in Bangkok this week (30 June-6 July) of the Second Conference of Parties, the governing body of the convention on tobacco control.

The meeting was convened to set a work agenda for the coming two years and report on progress since the first session of the conference in February 2006.

"I congratulate the Parties for accomplishing all major objectives scheduled on the programme of work," said Conference President Juan Martabit of Chile.

"The degree of engagement, respectful discussion and commitment by all to reach these very productive outcomes remained exemplary throughout the entire Conference."

"It is important that we do not lose precious momentum started by the expert group on the illicit trade issue," said Dr Haik Nikogosian, Head of the Convention Secretariat.

"This transnational phenomenon negatively affects national security and economics, as well as public and personal health in many countries," he added.

"This Treaty enables countries to combat the complex threats tobacco poses to human health, such as illicit trade of tobacco products, through international law, including through negotiation of a special protocol like the one launched during this session."

Apart from launching negotiations on a protocol on the illicit trade of tobacco products, the other key decision taken was the adoption by parties of guidelines on protection from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

The guidelines, which were adopted unanimously on the Conference's second day, give national and local governments clear direction to establish smoke-free environments.

"Sound science proves there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke," said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Head of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative.

"We are working harder than ever with governments, civil society and other public health experts to denormalize tobacco, and smoke-free environments are one of the key measures to bring about this major shift in social norms to save millions of lives in coming decades."

Other decisions taken at the Bangkok meeting were to begin work on guidelines related to packaging and labelling of tobacco products, and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship between now and the third session of the conference, scheduled for next year in South Africa.

The Conference also decided to strengthen support to Parties in need, to develop projects for financial assistance in implementing the Framework Convention.

Since its entry into force on 27 February 2005, the Framework Convention has become one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations.

Delegates from 129 of the eligible 146 Parties attended the session. Other states - including signatories to the treaty - as well as non-governmental organizations in official relations with WHO and intergovernmental organizations participated as observers.