July 22, 2004
Tobacco Treaty Deserves Urgent Attention of new Foreign Minister
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) called on Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs to quickly ratify the new global tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“This minister, more than any, should understand the importance of Canada quickly ratifying and fully implementing this important treaty,” said PSC research director, Neil Collishaw. “His previous work as Minister of Health will have informed him of the importance of curbing tobacco use in Canada and abroad. Similarly, his experience as Minister of International Trade will have acquainted him with the power of multinational corporations to thwart and circumvent protective measures unless international standards are set and support provided to vulnerable countries.”
Because of the leadership role Canada played in the development of the treaty, it was once expected that the Canadian government would be among the first to ratify and support its implementation. Unexpectedly, ratification was delayed, and more than a year has elapsed since the treaty was adopted by the World Health Organization in May 2003 and signed by Canada in July 2003.
“Other countries – as diverse as Japan, Norway, Hungary and India – have been able to make a commitment to this treaty – but Canada remains sidelined,” said Mr. Collishaw
The FCTC was negotiated through the World Health Organization to combat the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Tobacco is currently responsible for over 3 million deaths worldwide, and is expected to kill more than 10 million people within 16 years. The treaty will come into effect when forty countries have ratified, of which 24 have ratified to date. The treaty is designed to help manage international tobacco problems, like smuggling and cross border advertising, and to promote a global standard of public health measures to control tobacco use. These measures include improved health warning labels, ending the use of misleading labels like ‘light’ and ‘mild’, and providing protection from second hand smoke.
“The absence of leadership once demonstrated by our government is hindering international efforts to reduce tobacco use,” Neil Collishaw explained. “Last spring, we expected Canada to ratify quickly, and then to begin both the important work of developing a strong treaty administration and improving Canadian laws to establish a high level of implementation.”
“As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pettigrew can help make up for lost time. By putting ratification of this treaty at the top of his agenda, he will help restore confidence in Canada commitment to good global government and better public health.”
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