India and WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history.
The WHO FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The Convention represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation. s. There are currently 180 Parties to the Convention including India.
It cites their determination “to give priority to their right to protect public health” and the “concern of the international community about the devastating worldwide health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke”. It then notes the scientific evidence for the harm caused by tobacco, the threat posed by advertising and promotion, and illicit trade, and the need for cooperative action to tackle these problems. Other paragraphs of the preamble note the role of civil society, and the human rights that the Convention aims to support.
India’s stand in implementing the WHO FCTC
Govt. of India ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004, the first ever international public health treaty focusing on the global public health issue of tobacco control. WHO-FCTC provides for various measures to reduce the demand as well as supply of tobacco. India played a leading role in FCTC negotiations to finalize its provisions and was the regional coordinator for the South- East Asian countries. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India organized the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) from 7th—12th November 2016
The key demand reduction strategies are contained in Articles 6 to 14 which includes;
- Article: 6 – Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco.
- Article: 7 – Non-price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco
- Article: 8 – Protection from exposure to second hand tobacco smoke.
- Article: 9 & 10 – Tobacco content and product regulation
- Article: 11 – Packaging and labeling of tobacco products.
- Article: 12 – Education, communication, training and public awareness.
- Article: 13 – Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
- Article: 14 – Demand reduction measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation
The key supply reduction strategies are contained in Articles 15 to 17 which includes;
- Article: 15 – Illicit trade in tobacco products.
- Article: 16 – Sales to and by minors;
- Article: 17 – Provision of support for economically viable alternative activities.
As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey-India (GATS2) India is home to over 27 crore tobacco users and globally it is the second largest producer and consumer of tobacco products. Available estimates in India show that smoking-attributable annual deaths were about 930,000, while the smokeless tobacco (SLT) attributable annual deaths were about 350,000, together accounting for about 1,280,000 deaths per year or approximately 3500 deaths every day.
In addition to the death and diseases it causes, tobacco also impacts the economic development of the country, and as per studies conducted by this Ministry, the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases and deaths in the year 2011 was INR 104,500 crores, which is huge burden for a developing country like Indian to bear. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for the four main Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) — cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes, which puts people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. NCDs are estimated to account for 63% of all deaths in India and these are expected to rise.