UK ratifies global tobacco treaty: now is the time for a long term strategy to cut tobacco use

Thursday 16 December 2004

ASH news release: For immediate release:Thursday 16th December 2004

Today the UK has joined the growing list of countries that have now formally ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the first global health treaty which commits governments to enact strict tobacco control measures. [1]  The FCTC will come into effect on 28 February 2005.  The signing also coincides with the publication today of the latest statistics which reveal that smoking rates in Britain have stalled at 26% overall – showing no change since 2002. [2]

Implementation of the FCTC will assist governments in reaching the United Nations Millennium Development goals of reducing poverty and improving health. [3]  Key provisions in the treaty encourage countries to:

  • Introduce effective measures to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke[3];
  • Enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
  • Require rotating health warnings on tobacco packaging that cover at least 30 percent (but ideally 50 percent or more) of the principal display areas and can include pictures or pictograms;
  • Ban the use of misleading and deceptive terms such as “light” and “mild”;
  • Combat smuggling, including the placing of final destination markings on packs; and
  • Increase tobacco taxes.

The treaty also requires governments to

“ …develop, implement, periodically update and review comprehensive multisectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes in accordance with this Convention and the protocols to which it is a Party.”

ASH has written to the Secretary of State for Health to ask what planning mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the UK complies with this requirement.

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“We are delighted that the UK government has made this important commitment.  Ratification of the treaty complements the tobacco control policies outlined in the ‘Choosing Health’, public health White Paper. However, what is required by the Treaty and what is lacking in the White Paper, is an overall strategy, and the mechanisms for revising and updating the strategy once it is developed.  If the government is to achieve its target of reducing smoking to 21% by 2010 it will need to implement stronger measures including a ban on smoking in all public places and workplaces.”  [4]

Notes and links:

[1]  To date, 168 parties have signed the FCTC and 42 countries have ratified the treaty. The treaty requires a minimum of 40 ratifications to come into force and will be implemented on 28 February 2005. For further details see: The list of current signatories can be viewed here on the WHO website.

[2] General Household Survey 2003.

[3]  See:

[4] The FCTC text states that governments:

“…shall adopt and implement in areas of existing national jurisdiction as determined by national law and actively promote at other jurisdictional levels the adoption and implementation of effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures, providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places.”  [Article 8]


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available


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