Global Treaty signed today on weapons of mass destruction

Wednesday 21 May 2003

ASH news release:  For immediate release:  Wednesday 21st May 2003


Global  Treaty signed today on weapons of mass destruction


Today the first ever global public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was adopted by the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Three weeks ago the US tried to wreck the treaty by writing to all 191 WHO member nations urging the inclusion of a clause allowing governments to opt out of any part of the treaty they found unacceptable.


Deborah Arnott, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:


“One by one countries declared their strong support for the treaty as it stood, and it was adopted as is. It was a slap in the face for the US which rather grudgingly agreed to adopt but said it would be reviewing the text before going any further.”


Germany, another potential dissident also fell into line following pressure from fellow EU members and campaigning organisations, and the EU as a group fully supported its adoption and said it was preparing to be among the first to ratify the treaty. The only country to speak out against adoption was the Dominican Republic which admitted that the tobacco industry was an official member of their delegation.


The legally binding text covers tobacco taxation, smoking prevention and treatment, illicit trade, advertising sponsorship and promotion and product regulation. Some countries announced they were already taking action to bring tobacco control measures into effect. Malaysia is launching a five year anti-tobacco media campaign starting on May 31, World No Tobacco Day. Jamaica said the existence of the treaty had helped support tobacco control measures including raising taxation on tobacco by 23% for the tax year 2003/4. And Tonga, where work on the treaty had led to the development of a strong domestic tobacco control Act brought into force in 2001 said until now we “have always been vulnerable to the might of the tobacco companies – not any more.”



The next steps are for countries to sign and ratify the agreement so that it can come into force.


“ASH is calling upon countries to set a target date for ratification by the next World Health Assembly in 2004,” said Deborah Arnott. , “This is a brown plague killing 5 million people a year which is entirely preventable – time must not be lost in bringing the treaty into force.”





1.    Tobacco has a mortality rate of 50%, half of those in middle age. SARS is currently estimated to kill 1 in 5 of those who contract the disease.

2.    On current trends by 2030 10 million people will be dying each year from tobacco-related disease, 70% from the developing world, and 500 million people alive today will die from tobacco-related disease.



3.    Contact: Contact Deborah Arnott +44 7976 935 987 (m) or Amanda Sandford: 020 7739 5902