There are nine core international human rights treaties, and many of these treaties pertain to tobacco control.
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, all UN Member States have ratified at least one core international human rights treaty, and 80 percent have ratified four or more. Each treaty has a committee which monitors implementation of the treaty.
Country Reports and General Comments
Human rights treaties can be used to encourage the treaty committee to ask the country about their progress in implementing tobacco control policies and to encourage/ require the country to follow tobacco control best practices. See below for more information about these reports and general comments:
ASH and Partner Country Reports
[vc_column_text]ASH and our partners have followed the lead of the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network
and have submitted country reports to treaty bodies, as countries are called for reporting. In many cases, we have worked with our allies in country to ensure that we are getting the most accurate information possible and also to encourage local organizations to take the lead on human rights advocacy.
To learn more about how to submit these reports, please visit our Learning Resources page, specifically our Tobacco and Human Rights Reference Guide and our Universal Periodic Review Engagement Memo.
If you are interested in partnering with ASH on a report for your country, please contact Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy at email@example.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″]
A general comment is a statement made by the Comittee (such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child) which interprets or clarifies the rights set out in the treaty in question, and may outline potential violations of those rights and/or offer advice to states parties on how best to comply with their obligations contained in the respective treaty.
International Human Rights Treaties Pertaining to Tobacco Control
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
1979 – CEDAW and tobacco are interconnected in many ways including smoking rates amongst women and girls, advertising directed at women and girls, tobacco labor issues, smoking’s impact on maternal and child health, and more. The human rights body for CEDAW is called the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (also CEDAW).
A shadow report for Argentina submitted to the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women by our colleagues at Fundación Interamericana del Corazon- Argentina (FIC – Argentina), the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law (the “O’Neill Institute”), the Foundation for Women’s Study and Research (FEIM), the Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policy (FUNDEPS) and the Tobacco Smoke-Free Alliance- Argentina (ALIAR). Click the icon on the left to view the parallel report.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Tobacco impacts children’s rights in many ways including advertising directed at children, second hand smoke, tobacco labor issues, environmental issues, and more.
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Parallel Reports and General Comments
German Civil Society Report- Convention on Rights of the Child. Click the icon on the left to view the report.
In 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted its general comment No. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment:
“States parties should encourage the use of digital technologies to promote healthy lifestyles, including physical and social activity. They should regulate targeted or age inappropriate advertising, marketing and other relevant digital services to prevent children’s exposure to the promotion of unhealthy products, including certain food and beverages, alcohol, drugs and tobacco and other nicotine products. Such regulations relating to the digital environment should be compatible and keep pace with regulations in the offline environment.”
In 2013, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted general comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (art. 24).
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
The ICESCR (1976) enshrines “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” an essential argument in why advocates should use a human rights based approach to tobacco control.
Parallel Reports and General Comments
For an example submission, click the icon on the left to view a report from the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network in 2011 for Bulgaria.
The ICESCR’s General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Art. 12)
Suggested Addition to General Comment No. 25
February 2020- Suggested addition to general comment No. 25 (2020) on scientific progress and economic, social and cultural rights (article 15 (1) (b), (2), (3) and (4)) submitted by ASH and our colleagues- Alianza por control Enfermedades no Transmisibles (AENT)-Chile, Airspace Action on Smoking and Health, ASH Finland, Association Healthy Romania Generation 2035. BLUE 21 / Unfairtobacco, Corporate Accountability International, Comité National Contre le Tabagisme (CNCT), Educar Consumidores, European Network for Smoking Prevention (ENSP), Fresh- England, Fundación Anaas, Fundeps (Fundaciòn para el Desarrollo de Polìticas Sustentables, Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association, Norwegian Cancer Society, Mary Anne Charity Trust- India, OxySuisse, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Public Health Law Center, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), Smoke Free Israel, SOS Tabagisme-Niger, STOP: Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, Swarna Hansa Foundation-Sri Lanka, Tobacco Control Alliance- Georgia, Tobacco – Free Association of Zambia, UBING, VISA Mauritius
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Tobacco poses special challenges to the health and human rights of people of racial minorities. In the United States, this is through menthol cigarettes and targeted advertising, but the challenges vary around the world.
CERD and fighting menthol
Black Americans have been intentionally targeted by the tobacco industry for decades. As a result, nearly 9 out of 10 of African Americans that smoke, smoke menthols.
CERD includes requirements to ensure that all people have the right to public health. Tobacco violates numerous human rights, but most notably, the right to health. The U.S. has ratified CERD, so CERD is U.S. law.
Click the button above to learn more about how public health advocates can link tobacco, menthol, and human rights in order to convince local, state, and even the federal government that they must protect us from tobacco companies and their deadly menthol flavoring.
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Current cigarette smoking is significantly higher among adults with a disability compared to adults without a disability. This can and should be addressed in a human rights based approach to tobacco control.
A victory for our reports is when a committee mentions tobacco in the concluding observations of that treaty session.
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