The WHO FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It aims to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by providing a framework for tobacco control measures to be implemented by its Parties at the national, regional and international levels.
Tobacco control measures under the FCTC include price and tax policies, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, packaging and labelling requirements to reduce tobacco industry interference in making and implementing public health policy, protection from exposure to second-hand smoke, education and public awareness measures, regulation of tobacco product contents and disclosures, treatment for tobacco dependence, and measures to combat illicit trade. The treaty also provides for international cooperation to support tobacco control, including scientific, technical and legal cooperation and information sharing.
The WHO FCTC entered into force on 27 February 2005, making the provisions of the treaty legally binding for the first 40 Parties . Australia was among the first Parties, signing the treaty on 5 December 2003 and ratifying it on 27 October 2004.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the WHO FCTC, keeping implementation of the treaty under regular review and taking the decisions necessary to promote effective implementation. The COP met annually in the first two years after the FCTC’s entry into force, and thereafter has met biennially. The COP’s work is supported by the Convention Secretariat.
Guidelines for implementation
Parties to the WHO FCTC are required to cooperate in the formulation of proposed measures, procedures and guidelines for implementation of the treaty. To this end, the COP has developed and adopted guidelines for implementation of key WHO FCTC provisions.
Article 5.3: Protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry
Article 5.3 requires Parties, in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, to act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.
The purpose of the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 is to ensure that efforts to protect tobacco control policy from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry are comprehensive and effective, recognising that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. Key recommendations include that Parties should interact with the tobacco industry only when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable effective regulation of the tobacco industry and tobacco products, and that any necessary interactions should be conducted transparently; rejecting partnership with industry; ensuring that preferential treatment is not given to the industry; avoiding conflicts of interest for government officials and employees; and requiring that information provided by the industry be transparent and accountable.
Consistent with the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3, the Australian Government Department of Health provides public notification of meetings with the tobacco industry.
Article 6: Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco
Under Article 6, Parties recognise that price and tax measures are an effective and important means of reducing tobacco consumption. Thus, Parties should take account of national health objectives concerning tobacco control when determining and establishing their taxation policies. Parties should adopt and maintain, as appropriate, measures including implementing tax and price policies on tobacco products to contribute to the health objectives of reducing tobacco consumption, and restricting or prohibiting sales to and importation by international travellers of tax - and duty-free tobacco products.
Tobacco excise taxes (excluding other taxes) should account for at least 70 per cent of the retail price of tobacco products.
The guidelines for implementation of Article 6 are intended to assist parties in meeting their objectives and obligations under Article 6, drawing on the best available evidence, best practice and experiences of the Parties that have successfully implemented tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption.
Article 8: Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke
Under Article 8, Parties recognise that ‘scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability’. In areas of national jurisdiction, Parties are required to adopt and implement effective measures providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places. At other jurisdictional levels, Parties are required to actively promote adoption and implementation of these measures.
The guidelines for implementation of Article 8 are intended to assist Parties in meeting their obligations for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke. They identify the measures necessary to achieve effective protection, based on the best available evidence, and contain statements of principle and definitions of relevant terms.
Articles 9 and 10: Regulation of the contents of tobacco products and regulation of tobacco product disclosures
Article 9 requires Parties to adopt measures for testing, measuring and regulating the contents and emissions of tobacco products. Article 10 requires regulation of tobacco product disclosures. The COP has adopted partial guidelines for implementation of these obligations, with guidance consolidated into one set of guidelines because of the close relationship between the two provisions.
The partial guidelines provide guidance on certain aspects of regulation of the contents of tobacco products and of tobacco product disclosures, and recommendations on the process for adoption, implementation and enforcement of these measures. Elaboration of a complete set of guidelines is continuing in a ‘step-by-step’ process.
Article 11: Packaging and labelling of tobacco products
Article 11 requires Parties to adopt and implement measures with respect to the packaging and labelling of tobacco products. It includes obligations to require the display of large health warnings and other information on tobacco product packaging, and obligations to prevent false, misleading or deceptive packaging and labelling. The guidelines for implementation of Article 11 are intended to assist Parties in implementing these obligations, and to propose measures that Parties can use to increase the effectiveness of their packaging and labelling measures.
Article 12: Education, communication, training and public awareness
Article 12 requires Parties to promote and strengthen public awareness of tobacco control issues, using all available communication tools, as appropriate. Towards this end, each Party must adopt and implement effective measures to promote awareness of and access to information about tobacco and the tobacco industry among the general public, and promote awareness of and participation in tobacco control by relevant persons and organisations.
The objectives of the guidelines for implementation of Article 12 are to identify key measures necessary to successfully educate, communicate with and train people on the health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco production, consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, and to guide Parties in establishing sustainable infrastructure to support these measures.
Article 13: Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
Under Article 13, Parties recognise that a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship would reduce the consumption of tobacco products. Each Party agrees to undertake a comprehensive ban (or, if constitutional impediments prevent a comprehensive ban, restrictions) on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
The guidelines for implementation of Article 13 were adopted to assist Parties in implementing their obligations under this provision. They indicate the scope of a comprehensive ban and provide recommendations on effective adoption, implementation, monitoring and enforcement.
Article 14: Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation
Under Article 14, Parties are required to develop and disseminate appropriate, comprehensive and integrated guidelines based on scientific evidence and best practices, taking into account national circumstances and priorities, and shall take effective measures to promote cessation of tobacco use and adequate treatment for tobacco dependence. The guidelines for implementation of Article 14 recognise the differing national circumstances of Parties and the need to develop infrastructure to support tobacco cessation and treatment of tobacco dependence. The guidelines recommend a ‘stepwise’ approach, beginning with ensuring that tobacco users receive at least brief advice, and gradually putting in place other mechanisms for providing tobacco dependence treatment, including more specialist approaches.
Policy options and recommendations for implementation
Articles 17 and 18: Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing
In Articles 17 and 18, Parties recognise the need to promote economically viable alternatives to tobacco production as a way to prevent possible adverse social and economic impacts on populations whose livelihoods depend on tobacco production. Further, Parties agree to have due regard to the protection of the environment and the health of persons in respect of tobacco cultivation and manufacture.
The policy options and recommendations on economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (in relation to Articles 17 and 18) aim to guide Parties in implementing policies that promote the establishment of innovative mechanisms for the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods for tobacco growers and workers in relation to Articles 17 and 18.
Reporting and exchange of information
Each Party to the WHO FCTC is required to submit periodic reports on implementation of the treaty. Parties’ periodic reports form the basis for the COP’s function of regularly reviewing implementation of the WHO FCTC and taking the decisions necessary to promote effective implementation, as well as enabling Parties to understand and learn from each other’s experience.
Reports are publicly available on the ‘Reporting’ section of the website of the Convention Secretariat, along with the reporting questionnaire and instructions, and annual summaries of global progress in implementation of the WHO FCTC.
Further information on the WHO FCTC, including records of negotiations, COP documentation and decisions, and information on upcoming meetings and events, can be accessed on the website of the Convention Secretariat (who.int/fctc/secretariat/en/.)