WHO Framework Convention (FCTC)

The World Health Organisation's International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sets out the principles to guide the cultivation of tobacco and the production and sale of tobacco products in the 21st century. The Convention entered into force in 2005.

Switzerland has only signed the WHO Convention, but has not yet transposed it into Swiss law. Besides Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco, Switzerland is the only country in Europe that has not yet ratified the WHO Convention. Above all, Switzerland must close the legal loopholes regarding a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

A convention contains the principles and general guidelines on how governments should deal with a problem area such as the tobacco epidemic. The provisions for implementing a convention can be laid down in so-called protocols or recommendations. Protocols are legally binding for the signatory states, whereas recommendations (guidelines) remain legally non-binding.

Why an international convention?

  • The tobacco industry operates globally. More and more, the multinational tobacco companies are conquering the markets in the countries of the South. In North America and Europe, sales of cigarettes have declined since the population has been informed about the health risks and governments have regulated consumption more strictly.
  • The tobacco epidemic has swept the world. Today, nearly six million people die each year from tobacco-related causes. If the epidemic continues unchecked, it will kill more than eight million people a year by 2030. This development is increasingly to the disadvantage of the South. In the future, these countries will be responsible for 80 per cent of tobacco deaths.
  • Many effects of the tobacco epidemic can only be tackled effectively at the international level, for example the marketing campaigns for tobacco products on the internet or the worldwide illegal trade in tobacco products.

Globalisation without harm to health

The purpose of the Convention is to remove tobacco from the general trade agreements. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) sets the general economic rules, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control determines the exceptions regarding tobacco. When it comes to tobacco, the Framework Convention takes precedence. Otherwise, all national laws implementing the WHO Convention, no matter how strong, could be overturned by international trade agreements that protect the interests of the tobacco industry.

Central issues

The core demands of the WHO Convention concern the international trade in tobacco products, tobacco taxes and advertising.

  • Article 15 calls for measures against illicit trade in tobacco products. The Protocol against Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products of 2012 aims to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products worldwide.
  • Article 6 contains the price-related and fiscal measures to reduce demand. The corresponding recommendations of 2012 show how states with high tobacco taxes can curb the demand for tobacco products.
  • Article 13 of the WHO Convention calls for a comprehensive ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products. The recommendations on Article 13 from 2008 list the individual measures.

August 2016