Tuesday, July 22, 2008


For 10 years, Douglas Bettcher, the United Nation's point person for tobacco control, has worked in the trenches on nitty-gritty details of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It sets minimum standards for countries to enact to protect people from inevitable tobacco deaths. Yet, he says, "We are at a turning point now."

Nine of 11 of the largest nations have signed and ratified the FCTC treaty, putting the effort on track to become one of the most successful in UN history. "We're only missing big names like the U.S. and Indonesia," he says. "But with peer pressure, I'm optimistic we will see these countries come on board soon" Hard work is at hand. The WHO is pushing for action to avoid what Bettcher calls epidemics "galloping out of control" in China and India. He also wants to head off what he sees as "a perfect storm brewing" in Africa, where countries could see death reaching the likes of those industrialized nations. "It's a make-it or break-it time," he says.

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