Canadian Public Health Association - Canadian Society for International Health - Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada - Non-Smokers' Rights Association - Path Canada - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
July 14, 2003
Canada’s Help Needed to Stem Global Tobacco Pandemic
(July 14, 2003 - Ottawa). Canadian health and development agencies are calling on the Canadian government to increase its support for measures to reduce global tobacco use.
“Tobacco is, with HIV/AIDS, the fastest growing cause of death in the developing world,” says Gerry Dafoe, chief executive officer of the Canadian Public Health Association. “Unless effective measures are put in place to reduce smoking, the number of tobacco caused deaths will double from 5 million to 10 million a year by the year 2020.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that 70% of tobacco-caused disease and death will soon be concentrated in poorer nations whose health systems are already over-burdened.
WHO member states unanimously adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first modern public health treaty, on May 21, 2003. While Canadian health groups applaud this move, they have a warning.
“The Framework Convention offers great promise that the spread of tobacco use can be contained,” says Janet Hatcher Roberts, executive director of the Canadian Society for International Health. “But the treaty will be ineffectual unless countries with both expertise and resources – like Canada – support and assist the developing world in implementing the treaty provisions.”
The new global tobacco treaty encourages world-wide adoption of effective tobacco control measures, such as reducing tobacco advertising, requiring large health warnings on cigarette packages, ending misleading marketing and brand names, protecting the public from second-hand smoke, raising the price of cigarettes through taxation, curbing cigarette smuggling and supporting smokers who want to quit. Other treaty measures include research collaboration and support to developing countries in implementing effective tobacco control measures.
“Canada played a pivotal role in the development of this treaty and offered both financial and technical support during the negotiation process,” notes Dr. Elinor Wilson, Chief Science Officer, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. “Canada also pioneered many of the measures which were written into the treaty, such as picture health warnings.”
As Francis Thompson of the Non-Smokers rights Association points out, “It has only recently become widely recognized that tobacco is a major health problem for developing countries, and a major financial drain, particularly for the poorest of the poor. Having played a major role in convincing developing country governments of the need to tackle this issue, Canada now has a moral obligation to ‘walk the talk’ and supply substantial assistance.”
PATH Canada’s executive director, Sian FitzGerald, points out: “Canada’s continued leadership is urgently needed. Many countries wishing to sign, ratify and implement the treaty need both technical and financial assistance from countries able to provide such support. It is equally important for Canada to lead by example, by setting a high standard for implementation of the treaty.”
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control includes both specific and general obligations, and in some areas governments have broad latitude in how they implement the treaty.
The groups have written to the Ministers of Heath and International Cooperation to urge speedy support for global tobacco control. They are calling on the government to:
· Provide appropriate financial support to global tobacco control (with a suggested budget of $80 million per year).
· Establish efficient funding review procedures to ensure that money is provided as quickly as possible.
· Quickly ratify the FCTC in Canada, and move to adopt the highest standards of implementation in Canada.
· Ensure effective monitoring of the treaty, through independent national and international reviews.
“As a precedent in treaty-making, the Framework Convention is a great achievement, and a legacy of global collaboration,” says Dr. Atul Kapur, president of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canad. “But that is not enough. This treaty won’t save lives until governments support each other in putting the treaty measures in place.”