We all know the dangers of smoking. We’re bombarded with public service announcements listing the consequences of lighting up, and as a result, smoking rates are decreasing in America. But, in some developing countries, free of antismoking campaigns, it seems the unhealthy habit is catching on more rapidly than in the past. In attempts to curb this trend and decrease smoking worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) spent four years negotiating the first ever world public health treaty: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC would concentrate on things like restricting the advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco; requiring health warnings that cover 30 percent, if not more, of tobacco labels; and prohibiting the use of the words “mild” and “light” to describe cigarettes. A point will also be made to create environments that keep the public from the risk of exposure to smoke (concerning transportation, restaurants, etc.), to tackle the ongoing issue of smuggling tobacco and cigarettes and to raise the taxes on tobacco.
[smoke] All members of WHO accepted this treaty unanimously, and it was closed for signing in June 2004. The Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control reported 168 countries have signed the treaty, including the United States, and 61 of those countries have become parties, meaning they have ratified it (while the United States has not). Only 40 countries were needed to ratify the treaty in order for it to go into effect, and the magic number was reached in February. All countries that ratify a treaty for framework conventions or protocols are then legally bound to them.
So what does this mean for the rest of us? Right now, not much. Since the U.S. government has not officially committed itself to the treaty, the provisions will not affect American smokers. But for the 61 countries that have, a number of benefits will hopefully result. The guy sitting behind you at a London pub may be restricted from exhaling his smoke on your BLT, for one. But overall, this treaty will allow multiple countries to act together in creating a world full of healthier people.
Some of the provisions have more implications than others. Randy Yu, finance junior and avid smoker, said he thinks dropping the “light” or “mild” from cigarette brands will be misleading smokers like him. “There is a remarkable difference between smoking a Marlboro Red and a Marlboro Light,” he explained. “People who already smoke generally have a preference; how are we supposed to differentiate between them?”
Katie Wilcox, international relations and economics junior, doesn’t seem worried about Yu’s potential dilemma, and instead thinks raising taxes on cigarettes, as proposed by WHO, will help encourage smokers to quit. “I think if the taxes are increased, it would certainly deter people from starting to smoke, and some, to even continue.”
[heather] But Yu disagrees. “If the taxes go up, it just means that I’ll be spending more money on cigarettes,” he said. “The prospective situation would definitely annoy me, but not encourage me to stop smoking.”
Fashion merchandising junior Heather Lalonde does not think many actions would alter the habits of a smoker. “People smoke because they want to smoke. Many of them do know the consequences and just don’t care.”
These possible consequences include several types of cancer, chronic coughing, increased blood pressure and various other health concerns. Psychologically, smokers become dependent on their daily nicotine dose, causing them to experience irritability, anxiety, fatigue – the list goes on. On average, one-third of those who are only “trying” cigarettes, primarily teens, become addicted.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services points out adolescents are more seriously affected by cigarettes because of the thousands of chemicals absorbed by their still-developing bodies each time they inhale. Even more alarming is that nearly 200 chemicals found in cigarettes are some type of poison. The result of this is an average five million deaths associated with tobacco and/or smoking each year.
[katie] Because we are now much more aware of the dangers that smoking entails, it might seem to make sense that people would be more adamant about quitting or never starting at all. In developed nations, this seems to be the case; smoking has been declining dramatically over recent years. This is most likely from the combination of people who decide to quit, but more so those who decide never to begin.
Wilcox agrees people will go on smoking, but she acknowledges the potential of the treaty. “This is obviously more efficient than doing nothing about these situations,” she said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
It is important for established countries to protect developing countries against health dangers, and this treaty could help keep health costs and death rates down. But, at least for now, Americans can continue to coat their lungs with carcinogens until the United States joins the movement against the worldwide epidemic.

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