After three years of negotiations, the World Health Organization has released the first complete draft of a treaty aimed at controlling the use of tobacco consumption around the world. WHO's 191-member countries have less than a year in which to finalize the text of the treaty, which will then be put up for adoption by the World Health Assembly next May.
The preamble of the 22-page text explains that an international treaty is needed to curb what it calls the spread of the tobacco epidemic, an epidemic, it said, that has devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences.
The body of the text outlines a number of measures to combat the use of tobacco. It urges countries to enact laws to raise cigarette taxes, to eliminate smuggling, and to tighten laws against false, misleading and deceptive tobacco packaging and labeling. The treaty text also prohibits the sale and promotion of cigarettes to minors.
The Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa, is the chairman of the committee negotiating the treaty. He said the most controversial item throughout the negotiations had to do with tobacco advertising, which, under the draft treaty, will be restricted.
"How do we go from the stage where there were no limitations to situations where there are very strict and strong limitations to total bans. If you read article 13, you would see there is a general principle enshrined here which is that each party shall gradually eliminate the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products," he said.
The World Health Organization estimates tobacco kills more than four million people annually. It predicts this figure will rise to more than 10 million people a year in less than 20 years unless strong steps are taken to curb tobacco consumption. Most of these deaths are expected to occur in developing countries.
The next round of negotiations on the treaty will be held in October, and the final text will come up for adoption in May. The treaty will enter into force 19 days after it has been ratified by 30 countries.