Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General at the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Madam President Preeti Sudan, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Mr Michael Møller,
Colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s an honour to be here for my first COP and to see the commitment of so many of you to making the world tobacco-free.
There’s no other way to say it: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one of the greatest public health achievements of the past 20 years.
More than 13 years since it came into force, it remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for health.
Together, we have made great progress. We have saved lives.
The implementation of the FCTC is improving.
More than 60% of the world’s population is now covered by one or more of the six MPOWER strategies – four times more than in 2007.
In recent years, several countries including Kenya and Uganda have passed comprehensive tobacco control laws.
Gabon and Gambia have increased tobacco taxes.
India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand have introduced large graphic health warnings.
Many countries have banned smoking in public places, from Afghanistan to Cambodia and El Salvador, and several cities in China have implemented smoke-free laws.
Plain packaging has now been implemented in seven countries, there are seven others with laws awaiting implementation, and countless others in the policy process.
A World Trade Organization Panel Report upheld Australia’s plain packaging law as consistent with WTO rules.
The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, with an explicit commitment to strengthening the implementation of the FCTC.
And most recently, we secured enough ratifications for the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to come into force.
I have to tell you honestly: we were worried we wouldn’t get there some months ago.
But we increased the intensity of our efforts, advocating for Member States to ratify it at WHO’s Regional committee meetings, and writing letters to Heads of State, Health Ministers and Parliamentary Speakers – and we made it.
This is another historic moment in the fight against tobacco. Thank you to each and every party that joined. But we still want more. We want as many countries as possible to become Parties to the protocol.
I’m delighted that immediately after COP the first Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products will be held at WHO headquarters here in Geneva.
At the United Nations General Assembly last week there were several key moments for advancing our fight against tobacco:
First, the launch of the Tobacco Free Finance Pledge, calling on all countries to divest tobacco investments from their sovereign wealth funds;
Second, the High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, where world leaders committed to 13 concrete steps to get the world back on track for the SDG target of reducing premature mortality from NCDs;
And third, the High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, which highlighted that reducing tobacco use is a critical component for ending TB.
As a side note, I also cancelled one of my other speaking engagements after a tobacco company announced it was sponsoring the event.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite all these successes, much remains to be done, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Progress is too slow.
We must continue advocating for urgent and accelerated implementation of the convention.
We must continue to be on our guard against the tobacco industry and its tactics.
Let me leave you with three specific calls to action.
First, we call on all countries to do more to increase tobacco taxes and to take full advantage of the multiple benefits both for saving lives and generating revenue for public health.
Second, we call on all countries to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
And third, we call on all countries to commit to universal health coverage, based on resilient health systems and primary health care that promotes health, prevents disease and delivers treatment and care centred on the needs of people.
So in summary, my three messages today:
Increase taxes. Ban advertising. Commit to universal health coverage.
Thank you for your support and resolve.
WHO is proud to host the Convention Secretariat.
Let me assure you that I remain personally committed to continuing the work done by my predecessors at WHO to use the full force of the convention to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
I thank you.