Tobacco treaty penned

Every day, people around the world light up some 15 billion cigarettes. This addiction to tobacco has reached epidemic proportions, according to the World Health Organization in Geneva. In hopes of curbing the escalating health and economic toll associated with tobacco use, negotiators from around the world drafted a tobacco treaty in May at the 56th World Health Assembly. On June 16, the first day the document was open for signatures of support, 28 nations and the European Community signed on. The United States didn’t.

Once ratified by the governments of 40 nations, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will become international law. It argues that “Every person should be informed of the health consequences, addictive nature and mortal threat posed by tobacco consumption and exposures.” The document calls for country-by-country political action to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke–especially children and those with compromised health.

The convention would prohibit sales of tobacco products to people under age 18, of toys or snacks that resemble tobacco products, and of individual cigarettes or small packs that are more affordable to minors than full packs.

Furthermore, the treaty would require each ratifying nation to “undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship”–not only within its own borders, but by local companies selling in other countries. Ratifying members would also have to track the production and distribution of tobacco products with a view to eliminating illicit trade in them.


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Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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