America opts out of tobacco treaty for fifth year in a row

It has been five years since the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Of the 168 countries to join, the United States is still not among them. This is a mistake as the FCTC could be crucial in stemming the tide of tobacco-related deaths. At first glance, some would think this treaty aims to ban all tobacco production and use thereof, but according to the WHO, the treaty "aims to protect people from the consequences of tobacco consumption by reducing the demand for and supply of tobacco."

Of the 168 countries to join since the convention's inception in 2005, 80 percent have prohibited the sales of tobacco products to minors, and 70 percent have placed warning labels on tobacco products, according to the WHO.

The basic requirements of joining the convention include higher tax and price measures, passing laws that guard against tobacco smoke exposure and banning any sales of tobacco to minors; most of which the United States has already implemented.

However, one point made by WHO was that the parties involved in this convention would also "support tobacco growers in making the transition to alternative livelihoods."

With the right resources, this is a great solution to lightening the blow of Big Tobacco's inevitable decline and subsequent layoffs.

If we helped tobacco growers switch to different sources of income, perhaps marijuana, we could ease tobacco's death toll.

"It is estimated that tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year, an average of one person every 6 seconds, and accounts for 1 in 10 adult deaths worldwide," said Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr. Margaret Chan in a WHO press release.

Compared with the effects of nicotine in tobacco, the effects of other substances, such as marijuana, is negligible. There is no known lethal dose from cannabis, studies reveal in a 2006 Washington Post report. Cannabis has not been shown to have a connection to lung cancer, and yet it continues to be illegal at a federal level while a drug that kills one person every six seconds has been largely shrugged off.

The U.S. government's preference for tobacco is because it makes money. By continuing to support big tobacco industry, the United States is saying that it cares less about the health of its citizens and more about corporate profit.

As evidenced by America's war on drugs, any attempt to prohibit tobacco would be folly. It is important, in the name of liberty, that we maintain our right to put whatever we want in our bodies and lead the kind of lives we choose. However, we must, to the best of our abilities, protect people from corporate manipulation. Education geared toward undoing years of tobacco industry advertising/propaganda would be a step in the right direction.

Education designed to reduce the demand for tobacco, as well as programs to assist tobacco farmers transition to healthful products, is sorely needed. The WHO FCTC will help get us there and the U.S. government should back it.