Download book chapter
Call To Action

Accession to the WHO FCTC is a critical and immediate need for all countries that have not yet done so. Following ratification or accession, adequate funding for and full implementation of all articles are necessary to effectively combat tobacco use.

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO, reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. Most WHO Member States have ratified the WHO FCTC, making it one of the most rapidly embraced international treaties of all time.

There are several stages in the WHO FCTC in common with other UN treaties: first, it needed to be adopted by the World Health Assembly (May 2003); then it became open for signature until 29 June 2004. During this period, 168 States signed the WHO FCTC. Countries that had not signed could—and still can—accede, a one-step process equivalent to ratification. The WHO FCTC entered into force on 27 February 2005, 90 days after the 40th Member State had acceded to, ratified, accepted, or approved it. The Protocols have an independent status, qualify as treaties in their own rights, and follow a very similar procedure; to date there is only one Protocol, on illicit trade.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body which regularly reviews and promotes the implementation of the Convention, and adopts protocols, annexes and amendments to the Convention. In crafting guidelines and recommendations, this body reaches well beyond the domains of medicine and public health, involving trade, finance, agriculture, education, labor, the environment, law enforcement, and the judicial system.

An explicit WHO FCTC trade provision on relation between international trade and public health became a contentious issue during the negotiations. As a result, two conflicting positions emerged— health-over-trade and opposition to health-over-trade. Owing to a lack of consensus, a compromise position eliminating any mention of trade emerged. This is an important omission, as trade treaties are increasingly being invoked to challenge tobacco control policy, as in the introduction of plain/standardized packaging in Australia.

Contrary to tobacco industry arguments, implementing tobacco control measures will not harm national economies. The WHO FCTC has mobilized resources (albeit still inadequate), rallied hundreds of non-governmental organizations, encouraged government action, led to understanding of the political nature of health policy, and raised tobacco control awareness in many government ministries and departments.

There are discussions of emulating the WHO FCTC for other health topics, such as global health, diet, and alcohol. This speaks to the success of the WHO FCTC and the need for harmonized global effort for other major health problems.

WHO FCTC Implementation

Progress towards implementation of substantive articles: percent of 126 Parties analyzed, as reported by governments, 2010–2014

Even though the WHO FCTC has already helped to prevent many thousands of deaths, the toll from tobacco-related diseases continues to rise.

MORE THAN 70 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE DIED from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.

Parties to the WHO FCTC

Increase in Parties to the WHO FCTC since the first edition of The Tobacco Atlas, 2002–2015

The WHO FCTC now covers about 90% of the world’s population.

Before and after the ratification of the WHO FCTC

Adoption of legislative, executive, administrative, and other measures (as per Article 5.2(b)) in relation to ratification of the WHO FCTC, 2014

FCTC 5.2(b) states that each Party shall, in accordance with its capabilities, adopt and implement effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures and cooperate, as appropriate, with other Parties in developing appropriate policies for preventing and reducing tobacco consumption, nicotine addiction, and exposure to tobacco smoke.

“WHO and its Member States gave birth to the WHO FCTC. The Convention took on a life of its own and now gives birth to another treaty [the first Protocol]. This is how we build ambitions in public health. This is how we hem in the enemy.” –Margaret Chan, Director General, WHO, addressing COP5 delegates, 2012

“The WHO’s proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control represents an unprecedented challenge to the tobacco industry’s freedom to continue doing business.” –British American Tobacco, 2003


WHO FCTC celebrate 10 years of entry into force of the treaty

An early resource atlas on tobacco, called Tobacco Control in the Third World: A Resource Atlas was released at the Perth World Conference on Tobacco and Health.



Chapman S, Wong WL. Tobacco Control in the Third World. A Resource Atlas. Penang: International Organization of Consumers' Unions and the American Cancer Society, 1990. 246pp (ISBN 967-9973-53-0).

Download book chapter