World No Tobacco Day 2011

World No Tobacco Day is soon upon us and I thought it might be useful to translate the original press release to reflect the real world implications of the FCTC treaty.

Some of us will be following this up with a blog post or two on how this treaty helps to maintain high levels of smoking-related disease. We do have a bit of a soft spot for this particular date since we launched our website, TobaccoHarmReduction.org on this day five years ago specifically to respond to WHO’s statement/position that all tobacco was equally harmful. In fact, locally we got more press on that day than WHO did for that year’s No Tobacco Day. (Assuming that they ever learned to swim in the first place, could they already have been jumping the shark?)

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The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the world’s foremost tobacco control instrument (hammer). The first treaty ever negotiated under the auspices of WHO, it represents signal achievements in the suppression of harm reduction and also in the oppression of all nicotine users regardless of whether or not such use has health consequences. In force since 2005, it is already one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations, with more than 170 Parties. An evidence-unencumbered treaty, it reaffirms the right to restrict all nicotine users to only the most dangerous form of delivery and provides new legal tools to strengthen abstinence-only policies and wage a war on tobacco.

World No Tobacco Day 2011 will be designed to highlight the treaty’s overall self-importance, to stress signatories’ obligations under the treaty and to promote the essential role of the FCTC and WHO in demanding that countries meet those obligations.

Countries will be expected to obey the WHO FCTC as much as, if not more, than it did in 1996 when a resolution calling for this treaty was first adopted. Preventing tobacco use is the priority of this treaty. This year, thanks in part to FCTC efforts in obstructing access to safer alternatives, more than 5 million people will die from a smoking-related heart attack, stroke, cancer, lung ailment or other disease. That does not include the more than 600,000 people – more than a quarter of them children – who we will claim will die from exposure to second-hand smoke (according to the studies we prefer to accept).

As with any other treaty, the WHO FCTC confers legal obligations on its Parties – that is, on the countries (and the European Union) that have formally acceded to it.

Among these obligations are those to:
• Prevent public health policies from embracing harm reduction options.
• Adopt price and tax measures to strengthen the black market.
• Foster intolerance to even negligible exposure to tobacco smoke.
• Prevent safer (smokeless) tobacco products from being promoted as any more appealing than cigarettes.
• Work to eliminate any additives or processes that make any form of tobacco use pleasurable.
• Prevent any packaging information describing one tobacco product as safer than another.
• Nag people about the dangers of tobacco use.
• Promote and subsidize pharmaceutical products to smokers.
• Complain about the illicit trade in tobacco products created by our other actions.
• Ban sales (that are already banned) to and by minors.
• Pretend to support economically viable alternatives to tobacco
• Ignore that for in some economies tobacco is the most viable crop.

The treaty also recognizes the importance of international coercion in forcing low- and middle-income countries to meet their treaty obligations. The campaign will focus on the following key message: that countries must fully implement the treaty even if most of the early mortality in those countries has other causes and even if implementing this treaty will deplete funding initiatives addressing those concerns.

Other key messages will include:
• The treaty embodies the desire and commitment of many anti-tobacco organizations and thousands of activists to have a tobacco- and tolerance-free world.
• Individuals should encourage and help their governments in their own oppression.
• The treaty should be duly appreciated by institutions and individuals alike as a landmark in the history of demonizing a plant and drug rather than addressing the variable health consequences of the delivery methods.
• WHO and the FCTC stand ready to browbeat countries into meeting their obligations under the treaty and its related guidelines.

The treaty has already proved its efficacy in political posturing and selling the concept of prohibition to the general public. In itself a success, this treaty has already formed a template and inspiration to globally address other public health issues such as alcohol consumption and inexpensive convenience foods. Nevertheless, more must be done for the treaty to reach its full potential. At their recent meeting in Uruguay, the Conference of the Parties urged all countries to progress beyond outmoded conceptualizations of public health and individual welfare and to adopt its guidelines instead. Furthermore, they reaffirmed their commitment to prioritize the implementation of intolerance designed to control and demonize non-pharmaceutical nicotine consumption.

On World No Tobacco Day 2011, and throughout the following year, WHO will urge countries to put the treaty at the heart of their efforts to control the global spread of effective harm reduction and the threat of low risk nicotine consumption.

By bowing to WHO’s call, countries will enhance their ability to significantly reduce any harm reduction efforts, maintain the high burden of smoking-related diseases and deaths to keep the FCTC viable, and to remove the possibility of safe nicotine consumption.

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