For Immediate Release
Gigi Kellett, +41 76 547 3476 (Geneva)
Christina Rossi, 617-306-0920 or email@example.com (Boston)
Report: Five Years In, tobacco Treaty is Saving Lives, Continues to be Stymied by Industry, US Still Absent
GENEVA - Today representatives from the 168 ratifying countries of the World
Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco treaty gathered to celebrate its
landmark fifth anniversary. As part of the convening, the treaty
Secretariat released a comprehensive report on the history of the
treaty, assessing its successes to date and the challenges that remain.
The civil society organizations, like U.S.-based Corporate
Accountability International, responsible for mobilizing global
grassroots support for the treaty were also on hand to discuss the
persistent and primary threat to the treaty’s full implementation:
interference by the tobacco industry.
“These countries deserve a lot of credit. Each has overcome
significant industry opposition and pressure to advance the lifesaving
measures of this treaty,” said Gigi Kellett, Challenging Big Tobacco
campaign director for Corporate Accountability International. “The
threat from Big Tobacco is still eminent. And still there is reason for
great optimism, given the success of the treaty to date.”
The treaty aims to reverse the leading preventable cause of death
and disease. Each year tobacco kills 5.4 million people each year. The
death toll will reach more than 8 million over the next two decades,
with the majority of lives lost in developing countries. The WHO
projects that strong worldwide enforcement and broad implementation of
the treaty could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.
The global tobacco treaty, formally called the Framework Convention
on Tobacco Control, is the world’s first public health and corporate
accountability treaty – and the most rapidly embraced treaty on record.
It today protects 86% of the world’s population.
The WHO finds that since the treaty entered into force in 2005,
Parties are implementing national tobacco control coordinating
mechanisms, banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco
products, and are taking measures to protect public health policies
from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
There are significant challenges to overcome. Corporate
Accountability International and its allies worked with governments to
secure strong treaty guidelines, insulating the treaty against
corporate interference. Big Tobacco has since disregarded and worked to
undermine this core component of the treaty which establishes the
tobacco industry’s fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest
with public health.
Governments are standing up to tobacco lobbyists. Colombia’s federal
legislators barred the tobacco industry from participating in
congressional negotiations of a national tobacco control law. Their
exclusion accelerated this process, which led to the establishment of
strong legislation with provisions in line with the global tobacco
In July 2009, during an international protocol negotiating session,
Parties kicked Big Tobacco lobbyists out of the process – a move made
possible by Article 5.3. Parties safeguarded the negotiations against
the tobacco industry’s fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of
interest, sending a strong message to the industry.
Notably absent from the treaty, is the U.S., the country that has
been at the heart of global tobacco trade since its beginnings. Though
former President George W. Bush took a step toward enacting the treaty
and signed it in 2004, he never submitted it to the Senate for a vote.
While in the Senate, President Obama twice sent official correspondence
to the White House calling for the treaty’s submission.
Further, the President signed a law this summer giving the FDA
regulatory authority over tobacco. This bill positions the U.S. to meet
its obligations under the treaty were it to sign.
“It’s time for the United States to join the global community and
reclaim a leadership role in taking on the tobacco epidemic,” said
Kellett. “This treaty will outlast all of us, setting not only a strong
standard for tobacco control but also a powerful precedent for
safeguarding democracies against the interference and abuses of
Corporate Accountability International has been waging winning campaigns to challenge corporate abuse for more than 30 years. We were there at the beginning of this movement to demand direct corporate accountability to public interests and have been at its forefront ever since.