How is the global tobacco ban doing?

The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)- the international treaty aimed at stamping out tobacco advertising around the world - has been open for signature since the middle of June. The treaty is supported by the FIA which is advising motor sport competitors and organizers to stop tobacco sponsorship in 2006.

The FCTC is a legally binding treaty which was negotiated by the 192 member states of the WHO and agreed by them in May after nearly four years of negotiations. The countries involved not only have to sign the agreement but then have to ratify it as well. Ninety days after this process has been completed in 40 countries the treaty will become law in those countries.

To date a total of 54 parties have signed the agreement and two countries (Norway and Sri Lanka) have ratified the treaty. Among the signatories are the European Union and 11 of the 15 member states (Germany, Belgium, Ireland and Portugal have not yet signed). In addition Hungary and the Czech Republic have also signed. Elsewhere there is strong support for the treaty in Africa where 11 countries (including South Africa) have signed. Seven nations in the Americas have signed including Brazil, while Asia is proving to be rather slower with only a handful of countries agreeing to the treaty so far. There are six countries in the Western Pacific region (including New Zealand) which have signed, while Australia is expected to sign.

The last two months have however seen signatures from Canada (which probably helps to explain the government's hard line on the Canadian Grand Prix), Korea and at the end of August came the surprise signing of Malaysia.

Indonesia is set to sign after a recent cabinet meeting and Japan has agreed to tighten tobacco advertising in line with the convention rather than rely on voluntary agreements. It has not however agreed to sign the treaty as yet.

The prime mover behind the treaty is Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway, who was until recently the Director-General of the WHO. She has now stood down and Dr. Lee Jong-Wook has taken over. In August at the 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health he warned that governments could face organized opposition in the ratification process.

However, support for the WHO has come recently from the World Bank which has issued a report called "Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control" in which it states that "the negative effects of tobacco control on employment have been greatly overstated. Tobacco production is a small part of most economies. For all but a very few agrarian countries heavily dependent on tobacco farming there would be no net loss of jobs, and there might even be job gains if global tobacco consumption fell. This is because money once spent on tobacco would be spent on other goods and services, thereby generating more jobs."

It is worth pondering, however, that the treaty has been signed by the governments of countries in which 10 of this year's 16 Grands Prix take place (Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Hungary, Italy [Italian & San Marino GPs], Malaysia, Spain and the United Kingdom). Two of these races are being dropped next year and Bahrain, China and Belgium (none of which have signed the treaty) are all getting races.