More than 100 countries that have ratified the World Health Organization Global Tobacco Convention are meeting to decide on ways to strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the treaty in an effort to curb deaths from tobacco use. This is the first "Conference of the Parties" to the treaty that came into force nearly one year ago.
The director-general of the World Health Organization, Lee Jong-wook, says the world's first tobacco control treaty is the best tool available for stopping the epidemic of ill-health and death from tobacco use.
"It simply must because every 6.5 seconds a tobacco user dies," he said. "Tobacco killed 100 million people in the last century. Unchecked, it is predicted to kill one billion in this century."
The World Health Organization says concrete measures included in the Treaty could help save 200 million lives by the year 2050, if there is a 50 percent reduction in consumption rates.
Many measures included in the treaty have deadlines for implementation. For example, countries have three years to put health warnings on tobacco products and five years to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
The joint secretary of India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bhavani Thyagarajan, says India has enacted legislation on most of these measures and is working on a law to ban smoking in films.
"It has been shown very clearly that the impact of films on the adults, particularly on the adolescents children," said Thyagarajan. "So we are now brought in the rules wherein the showing of tobacco consumption in any form in movies is also being banned."
Thyagarajan says comprehensive legislation on this measure is likely to come into effect March 1.
Namibia is one of the countries that worked actively to negotiate the global tobacco-control treaty. Namibia's minister of health, Richard Kamwi, says his country will continue to work for strong enforcement of the treaty. He notes that during the past 10 years, Namibia has experienced a big increase in non-communicable diseases, many of which are related to smoking.
He says this is a trend throughout the African continent.
"It is now for the Conference of Parties to take the process forward," he said. "We need to put mechanisms in place that can [ensure] the maximum implementation of the Convention. We are doing this for the health of my people. We are also doing this to stop the tobacco industry from making indecent profits that end up going to a few, while the poorest countries and very many people have to suffer the negative consequences."
During the next two weeks, delegates will seek ways to end or reduce certain practices such as illicit trade in cigarettes or cross-border advertising. It also will discuss financial support for developing countries, ways to help them implement the treaty's provisions and set up a monitoring system to keep tabs on how well countries are doing in efforts to curb smoking.