WHO convention and Korea’s tobacco control policy
The six-day convention on tobacco control aims to alleviate the global epidemic
By Bang Moon-kyu
The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) ended after six days of heated discussion in Delhi, India, from Nov. 7 to 12.
The FCTC, which was unanimously adopted at the World Health Assembly in 2003, is the first international health treaty. It was developed on the spirit that all states need to cooperate to counteract the global tobacco epidemic and to protect people from the harm of smoking.
The COP regularly reviews the implementation of the convention and discusses key tobacco-related issues, holding the session every two years. Korea ratified the convention right after its entry into force in 2005, and has exerted its efforts in full to implement the FCTC especially as the host of the fifth session in Seoul in 2012 and as the chair of the following session in Moscow, 2014.
With about 1,000 delegations from 180 governments as well as intergovernmental organisations, including the WHO, and non-governmental organisations, this year’s COP7 assessed the impacts of the FCTC on tobacco control policies of individual nations, and discussed ways to tackle the tobacco industry’s interference with government tobacco control measures - one of today’s key issues in implementing the FCTC, and to prevent and regulate globally emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and hookahs.
First of all, the COP noted that the FCTC has been making significant progress in many ways: offering a global instrument for tobacco control; providing protection from exposure to tobacco smoking; regulating tobacco packaging and labelling; and encouraging tobacco price hikes. On the other hand, it pointed to some obstacles to tobacco control efforts - the tobacco industry’s aggressive activities, lack of consideration for vulnerable groups, and insufficient responses to emerging tobacco products.
Specifically pointing out that the tobacco industry has incessantly interfered with the government tobacco policies, the COP recommended that the parties actively comply with Article 5.3 of the FCTC and the guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3. The guidelines recommend its parties establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry, to reject partnerships with the tobacco industry and to regulate activities described as “socially responsible” by the tobacco industry.
The COP argued that emerging tobacco products, such as electronic nicotine delivery systems, should be regulated, especially with regard to the marketing claim on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.
At the seventh session in India, the Korean delegation shared with the other parties its latest progress including tobacco price increases, pictorial health warning, smoke-free restaurants, smoking prevention programme at every primary and secondary schools, and tobacco addiction treatments for smokers, all of which have been positively assessed. The Korean government’s strenuous and enthusiastic efforts for tobacco control not only have made globally notable progress in its fight against smoking, but also are making a positive influence on surrounding countries including China, Japan and the Philippines.
Moreover, Korea suggested an agenda on the importance of developing gender-specific tobacco control policies ― Korea has a gender gap in tobacco consumption and therefore provides customised cessation programmes for the female population. Other parties and the WHO have showed great interest in the agenda. Being the leading country for healthcare, Korea is expected to show a further performance in global tobacco control.