Press Release

Irish Government Ratifies World Tobacco Treaty

Minister Martin receives World Health Organization award for his tobacco control activities

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin TD, today (Thursday, 17 June) ratified the world´s first health treaty, the World Health Organization´s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The Minister said the decision to ratify was made at last Tuesday´s cabinet meeting and he also said that the European Union (EU) is now finalising the process of ratifying the FCTC too. Minister Martin said that the treaty would be laid before the Oireachtas for final approval within the next few weeks.

Minister Martin was speaking at the Change is in the Airconference, which is being held in the Radisson SAS Hotel, Limerick over the next two days. The conference is being hosted by the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) on behalf of the Minister for Health and Children to coincide with Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union (EU). It is being addressed by leading international and national speakers who are examining the issue of the future direction of tobacco control policy in the EU.

“I am very pleased to announce that the EU is today finalising the process of ratifying the FCTC. This is a very significant step as the Union formally commits to the implementation of this far reaching international agreement to respond effectively to the global threat posed by tobacco. I am also pleased to announce that at last Tuesday´s Government meeting Ireland´s ratification of the Convention was formally agreed.”

Minister Martin said that the Convention, which has been signed by 128 countries around the world and ratified by 22, including Ireland, will be an important public health instrument as it sets the context for further measure to respond effectively to the health threat of tobacco. The Minister pointed out that a total of 40 ratifications will be required for the treaty to enter into force.

“A recent World Health Organization report stated that the majority of smokers in the world today, over 80% are in developing countries. The global tobacco industry is concentrating its efforts in developing new markets in these countries.”

Dr Vera da Costa Silva, Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the WHO, explained that the FCTC is a tool to deal with what has become a worldwide health threat.

“The FCTC aims to protect national legislation from being circumvented by transnational activities, like cross-border advertising and smuggling of tobacco products. The Convention sets an international floor for tobacco control with provisions on several issues such as advertising and sponsorship, tax and price increases, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.”

At the conference, Minister Martin was also presented with the World Health Organization´s Special Director-General´s award, for his leadership in Global Tobacco Control 2004 by Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General and in recognition of his outstanding contribution to tobacco control. Minister Martin is only one of two recipients of this prestigious award in 2004 and the only awardee from Europe.

“Since his appointment as Ireland´s Minister for Health and Children in January 2000, Micheál Martin has been consistent in his commitment to the fight against tobacco and has made a remarkable contribution to tobacco control. He has made the reduction of smoking prevalence one of his top priorities and has demonstrated political courage in relation to the tobacco issue. He has pushed the Irish Government´s Towards a Tobacco Free Society policy with vigour adopting a comprehensive tobacco control programme which mirrors WHO recommendations.

On 31 May 2002 World No Tobacco Day, he established the independent Office of Tobacco Control on a statutory basis to promote a tobacco free society and build capacity for tobacco control measures. Recognizing that tough tobacco control legislation is essential and effective in reducing the numbers of people smoking, in particular children, he has built on previous legislation by banning advertising, raising the legal age for sales to 18 years and presided over the enactment of wide-ranging tobacco control legislation by the Irish parliament.

Under his stewardship, tobacco control activities have attracted additional funding and resources for compliance building measures and substantial investment has been made in health promotion activities with sustained information campaigns. On 29 March 2004, Ireland became the first European country to implement legislation creating smoke-free enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants. This ground-breaking measure demonstrates Minister Martin’s strong leadership and steadfastness in putting public health to the fore. In addition to the significant measures at a national level (Ireland’s smoking prevalence has dropped by more than 4% since he took office), he has ensured that Ireland played a strong, positive, constructive and supportive role in the development of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Dr Le Galès-Camus concluded.