Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(FCTC) was the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. The FCTC came into force in February 2005. There are currently 176 states party to the FCTC, all of which are legally bound to perform obligations set under the treaty. Australia became a signatory to the FCTC in December 2003, and became a full party when the treaty came into force in 2005.
The FCTC outlines a set of seven guiding principles for involved parties, including that:
- every person be informed of the health consequences of smoking and effective measures be implemented to protect all people from exposure;
- strong political commitment is necessary to develop and support tobacco control measures;
- international cooperation is an important part of the Convention;
- comprehensive and multisectoral responses are essential;
- issues relating to liability are an important part of tobacco control;
- technical and financial assistance for people in the tobacco industry should be addressed; and
- the participation of civil society is essential in achieving the objectives of the Convention.
The core provisions of the FCTC address the reduction of both supply and demand of tobacco products. Key demand reduction provisions include price and tax measures to reduce demand, regulation of product and packaging, and education, among others. Key supply reduction provisions address sales to minors and the illicit tobacco trade.
Current policy environment in Australia
Federal, and State and Territory Governments in Australia have committed to reducing the national smoking rate to 10% of the population by 2018 and halving the Indigenous smoking rate (from the 2009 baseline of 47.7%) by the same year.
This commitment has been made through two key agreements of the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG): The 2008 National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH) and the 2012 National Healthcare Agreement in response to the recommendations of the National Preventative Health Taskforce. These agreements provide a platform for the Federal Government, and State and Territory Governments to work together.
A central purpose of the NPAPH is the development of infrastructure to monitor and evaluate preventive health interventions and includes the establishment of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. The NPAPH provides $103 million for tobacco control, specifically focused on social marketing strategies.
National Preventative Health Taskforce
In 2009, the National Preventative Health Taskforce made a recommendation that the Australian Government commit to a target of reducing the number of Australians who smoke by at least one million people by 2020, to no more than 9% of people aged 14 and over.
- Revenue measures to reduce the affordability of tobacco products;
- Legislative reforms to address current deficiencies in tobacco regulation;
- Expenditure measures focusing on social marketing campaigns;
- Indigenous tobacco control;
- Other initiatives to reduce social disparities in smoking;
- Health system interventions;
- Reinvigoration of the Australian National Tobacco Strategy; and
- Overseas development focusing on countries receiving aid.
Taking Preventative Action, the Australian Government’s response to the report of the National Preventative Health Taskforce was released in 2010. The Government responded to each of the recommendations made by the Taskforce and committed to:
- introducing mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products;
- prohibiting tobacco advertising on the internet; and
- working with states and territories to develop an action plan for ending other forms of tobacco promotion.
National Tobacco Strategy
The National Tobacco Strategy 2012–2018 is a policy framework for the Australian Government, and State and Territory Governments to work with non-government agencies to reduce the burden of tobacco-related harm in Australia. The goal of the strategy is to improve the health of Australians though reducing the smoking rate, and the health, social and financial costs associated with tobacco use.
In accordance with CoAG agreements, the Strategy aims to reduce the national adult daily smoking rate to 10% of the population by 2018, and to halve the adult daily smoking rate among Indigenous Australians by 2018, from the 2009 baseline rate.
The Strategy outlines nine priority areas for action, through evidence-based tobacco control measures to:
- protect tobacco control policies from tobacco industry interference;
- strengthen mass media quit campaigns and reshape social norms about smoking;
- continue to reduce the affordability of tobacco products;
- reduce smoking rates among Indigenous Australians;
- reduce smoking rates in high-prevalence groups;
- eliminate remaining advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products;
- consider further regulation of tobacco products and supply;
- reduce exceptions to smoke-free environments; and
- provide greater access to cessation services.
Progress will be monitored though a number of specific indicators including smoking among young people and adults, number of quit attempts, exposure of young people and adults to second-hand smoke, and smoking rates in high-prevalence groups.
Policy targeting high-risk groups
The National Tobacco Strategy 2012–2018 identified high smoking rates in Indigenous and disadvantaged populations as key areas for intervention. Likewise, the strategy of the National Preventative Health Taskforce prioritises Indigenous tobacco control and reducing social disparities in smoking.
The CoAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes committed $1.57 billion over four years to improving Indigenous health, with funding expiring mid-2013. The strategy focuses on tobacco control, as one of five major initiatives, through tailoring mainstream tobacco control programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
- World Health Organization. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2003.
- Council of Australian Governments. National Healthcare Agreement 2012. Sydney: COAG; 2012.
- Council of Australian Governments. National partnership agreement on preventive health. Sydney: COAG; 2008 Available from: http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/npa/health/_archive/health_preventive_national_partnership.pdf.
- National Preventative Health Taskforce. Australia: The healthiest country by 2020. Technical report 2 - Tobacco control in Australia: Making smoking history. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2009.
- Australian Government. Taking preventative action: Government's response to Australia: the healthiest country by 2020. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing; 2010 Available from: http://yourhealth.gov.au/internet/yourhealth/publishing.nsf/Content/report-preventativehealthcare.
- Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs (IGCD) Standing Committee on Tobacco. National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2012.