The FCTC: 10 Years After

On 27 February 2005, the WHO FCTC first came into force. It remains the only legally binding global health treaty. As part of the WHO day-long symposium on the FCTC and MPOWER,  a plenary session on the 10-year-old treaty  gave a snapshot of the world pre-FCTC, reviewed progress made over the last decade through MPOWER, and offered look forward into the future of tobacco control, in relation to new global development goals and voluntary targets to reduce NCDs.

In 2000, no country in the world had a smokefree policy. By 2012, 43 countries had complete smokefree legislation covering 1.1 billion people, or 16% of the world’s population. In 2001, as the WHO FCTC was being developed, Canada introduced the first graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. By 2012, 30 countries, home to 1 billion people, or 14% of the world’s population had strong graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging.

 Since 2005 and the launch of the WHO FCTC, 180 parties have signed the treaty, leaving less than 10 percent of the world’s countries outside of this legal commitment to protect public health. 92 countries -- or one third of the world’s population -- are now covered by one MPOWER measure at the highest level. Clearly much progress has been made over this last decade.

Such comprehensive data collection for tobacco control was marked as another success for the WHO FCTC. As Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director General noted earlier in the day: ‘What gets measured gets done.’

Now almost all countries have in-depth profiles for levels of both MPOWER implementation and prevalence of tobacco use. This has built the evidence base for promoting increased tobacco control. WHO now has newly published data on trends in prevalence of smoking, based on more than 1,000 country-level surveys.

WHO’s Dr Douglas Bettcher, said figures revealed that many countries were not on course to achieve 30% tobacco reduction by 2025, as agreed in the 2011 targets. Though there is clear evidence for MPOWER’s efficacy, implementation needs to be stronger and faster.

Dr Douglas Webb of the United Nations Development Programme emphasised tobacco control as a development issue, but one rarely mentioned in countries’ development planning or discourse. ‘Someone, somewhere is doing a very good job of playing down the fact that tobacco kills more people annually than HIV, TB and malaria combined, ’ he said.

Dr Webb also highlighted that costs associated with tobacco control are not financial, but rather that political capital is at stake. Incorporating tobacco control into a development plan indicates clear political will for implementation, across government departments, and a firm platform for building strong tobacco control programmes. 

Success stories were shared from both Brazil and Russia where thanks to high-level political commitment, smoking rates have declined considerably. Both Dmitry Kostennikov, Deputy Minister of Healthcare for Russia, and Arthur Chioro, Minister of Health for Brazil, emphasised that strong collaboration across government departments and the public sector, as well as sustained involvement of civil society were key to reducing rates of tobacco use.

Speakers were: Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head, WHO FCTC Secretariat; Arthur Chioro, Minister of Health for Brazil; Mr Dmitry Kostennikov, Deputy Minister of Healthcare for the Russian Federation; Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO; Dr Douglas Webb, United Nations Development Programme; Laurent Huber, Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control.

Chairs: Dr Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director General, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, WHO and Prof Judith Mackay, Senior Consultant, World Lung Foundation

This plenary was streamed live and features in a photo gallery.