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First Global Health Treaty Signed

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The world's first public health treaty has been adopted by the World Health Organization. The U.N. health agency began drafting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) four years ago in order to combat the world's leading preventable cause of death, tobacco-related illness, which claims nearly 5 million lives every year.

The treaty bans tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and protects public health policy from tobacco industry interference.

Developing countries have become targets of Big Tobacco's aggressive expansion, and many of them—including all 46 African nations—led the way toward a strong treaty. At the end of the final round of negotiations, U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman and Lloyd Doggett, and Senator Dick Durbin accused the Bush Administration of trying to weaken the FCTC.

The Bush Administration made a final attempt in late April to re-open the debate on the FCTC text. Sixty-seven non-governmental organizations signed a letter to President Bush urging him to halt efforts to derail the FCTC. Days before the treaty was scheduled to be adopted, the U.S. announced it would not stand in the way. The WHO's governing body unanimously adopted the FCTC on May 21.

The FCTC must be ratified by 40 countries in order to become international law. As of mid-July, 46 countries and the European Community had signed the treaty. Norway was the first country to ratify the FCTC.

Kathryn Mulvey is executive director of Infact,, which campaigned in support of the FCTC.

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