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Tobacco use is the single greatest preventable cause of cancer in the world. It also causes a range of other diseases and conditions including cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, sudden infant death syndrome and blindness. Tobacco is both highly addictive and lethal when used as intended by its manufacturer. The World Health Organization estimates that tobacco kills nearly 6 million people a year, including more than 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco kills around half of its long-term users. It impedes social and economic development by reducing productivity, diverting expenditure from necessities such as food, education and health care, and imposing health care costs on families and communities.

Law has long played a central role in tobacco control. This includes the adoption of legislative or regulatory measures providing for, for example, smokefree workplaces and public places, mandatory health warnings and product information, and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; litigation against the tobacco industry by individuals and governments over its conduct, or by employees and members of the public against employers and occupiers of public places over exposure to tobacco smoke; or litigation by the tobacco industry in domestic and international fora to challenge tobacco control measures.

The framework for global tobacco control is set by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. The FCTC was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2003 and entered into force on 27 February 2005. It now has 178 Parties. Under the treaty, Parties commit to a range of measures dealing with demand reduction, supply reduction and international cooperation (including reporting). The treaty’s governing body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), has met seven times. 
The McCabe Centre performs the functions of a WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on matters within its expertise, in particular legal challenges to implementation of the WHO FCTC, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Convention Secretariat and UICC. Through the McCabe Centre Knowledge Hub website, parties and interested partners can find information regarding the WHO FCTC, State obligations under international trade and investment law, and the relationships between them. The Knowledge Hub site also provides information on ongoing trade and investment challenges to implementation of tobacco control measures.

Key issues 

Plain packaging in Australia: