Anti-tobacco treaty goes through

The World Health Assembly has unanimously adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first global health treaty, which includes a commitment to introduce tough controls on tobacco advertising and sponsorship with an undertaking that within five years of adopting the treaty signatory countries shall "undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship" which will include in possible a comprehensive ban on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship originating from its territory.

If a comprehensive ban is not possible because of constitutional principles signatory countries have agreed to apply restrictions on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The treaty has the support of 192 countries, including the United States and Germany, which had previously been opposed to the idea. There now needs to be the process of ratification. This will happen when 40 countries have ratified the agreement. This could take two or three years to achieve.

"This is a historic moment in global public health," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the WHO. "Now we must see this Convention come into force as soon as possible, and countries must use it as the basis of their national tobacco-control legislation. We must do our utmost to ensure that young people everywhere have the best opportunities for a healthy life. By signing, ratifying and acting on this Tobacco Convention, we can live up to this responsibility."

According to our sources at the FIA, this is "a very significant step forward" in the moves towards eradicating tobacco sponsorship in the sport.

"We anticipated this back in 2000 when the World Motor Sport Council adopted a resolution supporting the Convention," said a senior FIA official. "Motorsport teams that do not realise the implications of this Convention would be extremely unwise and short-sighted."

The FIA is going ahead with its planned legal challenge to European Union legislation, hoping to stop EU members bringing in a Europe-wide tobacco ban on July 31 2005. This may become irrelevant because in order for the agreed directive to be effective member countries have to meet their obligations and some are unlikely to do that if a legal challenge is outstanding.

It should be remembered that the major tobacco companies are already committed to stopping sports sponsorships by an agreement in September 2001 called the International Tobacco Products Marketing Standards which defined the minimum restrictions which the companies agreed to place on themselves worldwide. They created a common code of advertising and sponsorship standards which included an agreement to end sports sponsorships on December 1 2006 on the understanding that the sport involved requires "above-average physical fitness for someone of the age group of those taking part".

In other words, one way or another, it is fair to suggest that tobacco sponsorship is going to die out in 2006, even if there are still some teams opposed to the idea.

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