- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

GENEVA (AP) — A global anti-tobacco accord will take effect next year after being ratified by Peru, the 40th and final country needed to implement the treaty that limits advertising and requires tough new warning labels on packs of cigarettes.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is meant to cut the number of deaths from tobacco-related illnesses — such as cancer and heart disease — which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates kill one smoker every 6.5 seconds. Some 5 million smokers are thought to die each year.

The WHO said Peru’s announcement Tuesday that it had ratified the accord raised total ratifications to 40, meaning the pact will come into force in 90 days — or on Feb. 28.

A total of 128 other countries, including the United States, have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it.

The treaty requires ratifying countries to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship, put tougher health warnings on cigarettes, limit the use of language like “low-tar” and “light,” enact price and tax increases, create controls on secondhand smoke and crack down on smuggling.

There are no penalties if they fail to do so, but their record would be examined at future U.N. anti-tobacco conferences.

“For us at WHO, it’s a historic moment,” Denis Aitken, a senior aide to WHO chief Lee Jong-wook, said yesterday. “It’s the world’s first significant health treaty. It’s a moment we hope will change global health.”

An estimated 1.2 billion people in the world are smokers. The WHO surveys show that smoking rates among 13-year-olds to 15-year-olds are about 20 percent, so health officials fear a disease time bomb as the world’s population grows.

By 2010, the death toll is expected to double to around 10 million — with 70 percent of the victims in developing countries least able to pay for treating smoking-related illnesses.

The WHO brokered four years of negotiations that led to the treaty’s completion in May 2003.

Tobacco companies reportedly lobbied against the treaty during the negotiations, yet have since said they have no objection to the pact. But anti-smoking activists say the companies might try to limit reforms enacted by those countries that have ratified the treaty.

“Now it is critical that individual nations resist the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence domestic legislation,” said Matthew L. Myers, head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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