Tobacco use negatively impacts people around the globe causing staggering health and economic losses to individuals, families and society. The tobacco industry has been held responsible in several court cases for its liability in causing this harm and in effect violating the rights of individuals.
There is a large body of international law built around the concept of human rights, carving in stone what individuals in any country can expect in terms of minimum treatment. One of the most basic of these human rights is the right to health.
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health, and wellbeing of himself and his family…” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
This right to health has been reinforced and expanded repeatedly in international documents in the past six decades, including the constitution of the World Health Organization, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
People have the right not to be forced to breathe secondhand smoke, and the right to be free from addiction. Children have the right to not be targeted by marketing that leads them to addiction and an early death.
Human Rights law is a powerful tool to help put in place strong tobacco control policies and defend them from the tobacco industry, which profits from the misery of its customers. ASH is taking action by working with allies around the globe to utilize human rights obligations to pressure governments to take more action against tobacco consumption, and to use human rights treaties to counter the tobacco industry’s lobbying and litigation.
ASH was instrumental in the development and adoption of the tobacco treaty, the WHO FCTC which is grounded in fundamental human rights and freedoms and is a founding member of the Human Rights Tobacco Control Network, an initiative to bring together allies in various fields to focus on tobacco control as a human rights issue.