Tibor Szilágyi. Secretariat WHO FCTC

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the world’s first public health treaty and is a powerful international binding tool to address the global tobacco epidemic. The FCTC has its own Secretariat, based in Geneva and hosted by the World Health Organization that assists the Parties in their implementation work. The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the Convention, the world’s only intergovernmental body solely dedicated to tobacco control.

The Convention entered into force on 28 February 2005 and evolved significantly in the past almost 12 years. The Conference of the Parties adopted by consensus a number of instruments (guidelines, policy options and recommendations) to facilitate implementation work by the Parties. Furthermore, in 2012, the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties adopted the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, a new international legal instrument that still waits to enter into force.

In the past 12 years we all witnessed remarkable developments in global tobacco control. 82% of Parties have strengthened their existing or adopted new tobacco control legislation after ratifying the Convention. Some other areas of progress include, for example: 1) since the advent of the Convention, the cost of a packet of cigarettes has, on average, increased by 150%; 2) smoke-free environments have been extended to cover outdoors areas, as well as private spaces, like cars and even homes; 3) health warnings on tobacco packages have increased in size and improved in their content; furthermore, there is a domino effect as more Parties introduce plain/standardized packaging of tobacco products; 4) advertising bans now include bans of display of tobacco products at the points of sale; a move which was difficult to imagine before the Convention entered into force.

The Convention was the first international treaty to open itself up to comprehensive impact evaluation and assessment. A report on its effectiveness was finalized earlier this year and presented to the Conference of the Parties in November 2016.

But challenges still remain. There is need for heightened awareness of tobacco industry interference – interference with tobacco control policies is what Parties most frequently mention as barrier for implementation. Stronger intersectoral cooperation is also crucial to improve efficiency of the Convention. Political support and will is to be sustained to ensure the Convention reaches its full impact. The outcomes of the most recent, seventh session of the Conference of the Parties are paramount in facilitating this effort.

Tibor Szilágyi is a medical doctor with a postgraduate diploma in internal medicine. He holds an MPhilPH degree from the University of Sydney (Australia) and an MSc in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the University of Pécs (Hungary). He began to work in tobacco control in 1998 in his home country where he ran a number of projects, including on tobacco control policy development. Later he became an international tobacco control advocate. He joined the Convention Secretariat in November 2007, where he has worked on a variety of tobacco control matters, including coordination of reporting on the implementation of the Convention by the Parties. Since 2010, he has been involved in providing assistance to Parties in their implementation efforts, primarily through participating in and leading needs assessment missions. He currently works as Team Leader, Reporting and Knowledge Management in the Convention Secretariat.