AAFP, Other Medical Groups Urge Ratification of Tobacco Treaty

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Commits Nations to Restrictions, Regulations

June 02, 2010 04:05 pm News Staff

The United States signed the World Health Organization, or WHO, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(www.who.int) in 2004, but six years later, the nation has yet to ratify the treaty.

[Stock photo of No Smoking sign]

The AAFP is one of five medical professional organizations trying to change that. In a letter dated June 1, the Academy; the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; the American College of Physicians; and the AMA urged President Obama to refer the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

More than 160 countries have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. The treaty is designed to foster international cooperation to protect people from the health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke.

The letter points out that the United States is one of the few nations that have not yet ratified the treaty, which commits nations to implementing policies on tobacco price and tax increases, banning or restricting tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labeling tobacco packaging with prominent health warnings, reducing exposure to second-hand smoke, expanding access to cessation treatments, and curbing illicit trade.

"It is time we took that step," the letter says.

Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, but then-President George W. Bush never referred the treaty to the Senate for ratification. The United States has been criticized for previous attempts to weaken provisions of the treaty.

The letter commends the Obama administration for its tobacco control efforts, including supporting FDA regulation of tobacco and making reduction of tobacco use a top priority for HHS.

"With ratification by the U.S. Senate, the United States would send a global message about its interest in the health of our nation and others around the world," the letter says.

The letter was the product of a March 31 meeting of the Smokefree Clinical Practice and Policy Collaborative -- which comprises representatives of the five medical organizations -- at the AAP's offices in Elk Grove, Ill.

Among other topics, the group discussed FDA regulations restricting the sale and marketing of tobacco products to children and adolescents that take effect June 22.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disability in the United States and worldwide. An estimated 5 million people die each year of tobacco-related causes.