Make Your Voice Heard on the Global Tobacco Treaty!
On September 20th, 2002, the U.S. Government will hold a public hearing on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Nashville, TN. This hearing takes place three weeks before the next round of negotiations, and is a great opportunity to let the Administration know that the public wants a strong global tobacco treaty.
Public health groups and others are encouraged to submit testimony to the Department of Health and Human Services. You do not need to attend the hearing itself in order to submit testimony. Written comments may be submitted until September 27, 2002. Comments can be submitted by mail or electronically (electronic submissions are encouraged).
To submit electronic comments, send via e-mail to FCTC.OGHA@osophs.dhhs.gov To submit comments by mail, send to: FCTC Comments (Attn: Ms. Gail Zaslow), Office of Global Health Affairs, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 18105, Rockville, MD 20857.
Remember that the tobacco industry and its front groups will also be submitting testimony, so it is important that as many groups and individuals as possible submit testimony favoring a strong FCTC.
Below is some background information and suggested talking points. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids will be preparing comments -- it would be incredibly helpful and appreciated if you could cc' us your comment as well.
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of premature death and disease in the world today. Each year, 4 million people around the globe die prematurely as a result of tobacco-caused diseases. By the year 2020 over 10 millions will die each year unless swift action is taken, with the majority of those deaths occurring in the developing world. Tragically, this epidemic is being fuelled by an industry that values profits above human life. In response to this burgeoning global epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has initiated the first-ever international treaty on tobacco control, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC could be a crucial tool in combating this global epidemic, by defining clear, binding rules on issues that can only be resolved through international agreement. (such as cross-border advertising, smuggling and trade issues). It could also assist countries in implementing best-practices in tobacco control on such issues as passive smoking and labeling. On the other hand, a poorly drafted FCTC will certainly be used by the tobacco industry as a powerful argument against stronger legislation. Therefore it is important that the FCTC not enshrine poorly-designed regulatory measures or subordinate the protection of public health to the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
So far in the negotiations, the Bush Administration has continually tried to water down the treaty on such critical issues as tobacco advertising, consumer protection and trade. The Administration's positions would facilitate the tobacco industry's assault on the developing world, rather than empowering countries to protect the health of their citizens. It is important that the Administration hear from U.S. citizens that this conduct is completely unacceptable, and that U.S. policy needs to change.
Suggested Talking Points
Below are some suggested talking points for your testimony. Please feel free to use any or all of these in your testimony:
The protection and promotion of public health should be the sole basis for all of the positions of the U.S. negotiating team to the FCTC.
The United States should support a strong, enforceable treaty that holds tobacco companies accountable and supports governments in their effort to protect and promote public health.
The FCTC should elevate concern for public health above trade concerns, as many countries have argued during the negotiations.
The FCTC must explicitly acknowledge that tobacco products are uniquely harmful and that concern for public health should override commercial considerations. In addition, a "non-interference" clause should be added to the FCTC to prevent countries from promoting tobacco use in other countries or seeking to undermine other nations' tobacco control laws.
Tobacco advertising is a prime 'vector' of tobacco related disease, and its elimination could reduce tobacco consumption substantially - saving millions of lives in the 21st Century. The FCTC should endorse the only known effective policy: a total ban on all direct and indirect ban on advertising. The FCTC should also include a ban on cross-border advertising, an international issue which could only be dealt with in the FCTC. The text should not endorse ineffective approaches, such as partial restrictions or youth-only measures.
The FCTC should set a floor, rather than a ceiling, for national efforts. Obligations within the FCTC should not be framed in such a way that they could become barriers to the enactment or implementation of stronger measures.
The FCTC should reverse the perverse incentives that tobacco companies and wholesalers currently have to facilitate cigarette smuggling. Appropriate measures would include the development of a liability regime to hold companies responsible and the launching of investigations and legal action aimed at those orchestrating smuggling.
The FCTC should recognize that exposure to second-hand smoke represents a serious and preventable health risk to nonsmokers, and should prohibit smoking in places of employment and public gathering.
The FCTC should contain a clear commitment to devoting no less than 50% of the principal display panels of cigarette packet to health warnings and consumer information. Packs should not be required to indicate 'sale prohibited to minors' as this would have the perverse effect of making smoking seem more 'grown up' and thus attractive to young people.
The U.S. should support an outright ban on the use of misleading descriptors such as 'low-tar' and 'light' and 'mild'. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has already determined that these terms have misled smokers into believing that such cigarettes are less harmful, and that this deception constitutes an "urgent public health issue". This should be reflected in the FCTC.
Sign the Online Petition!
Another way you can make your voice heard is by signing the online petition asking President Bush to support a strong FCTC. Signing the petition is easy. Simply go to:
More information about the FCTC and global tobacco issues can be found on the following websites:
- Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
- Framework Convention Alliance (international coalition of NGOs)
- World Health Organization
Attending the Meeting (from the Federal Register notice)
"The public meeting will be held on September 20, 2002, from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219. Seating capacity is 125 people. Comments also will be accepted during the public meeting. Those who wish to attend are encouraged to register early with the contact person listed below. If you will require a sign language interpreter, or have other special needs, please notify the contact person by 4:30 E.D.T. on September 5, 2002. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Zaslow, Office of Global Health Affairs, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 18105, Rockville, MD 20857, 3014431774 (telephone) or 3014436822 (facsimile) or FCTC.OGHA@osophs.dhhs.gov"
- 109 Tobacco