A worldwide treaty to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship came into effect on Sunday - although it has been ratified by only fifty-seven of the 168 nations that signed the accord one year ago [WAMN: 20-Feb-04].

Among the 111 nations yet to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as the treaty is known, are China and the United States.

According to the agreement's progenitor, former World Health Organisation official Doctor Derek Yach, the original agreement lacks protocols - bureaucratese which translated into plain English means additional agreements that bind together the loose ends of a general accord.

"The framework without protocols is toothless. Yet even preliminary work on these is over a year from even being discussed, let alone planned for," bemoans Yach, now professor of global public health at Yale University.

The nations to have ratified the Convention include most European Union members. They have restricted tobacco advertising and sponsorship, put tougher health warnings on cigarette packs and limit use of language like 'low tar' and 'lite'.

Other governments, particularly those with few anti-tobacco policies, needed clear, exact guidelines on what they should do to carry out the treaty, argues Yach.

"Evidence suggests that the only way to have a rapid impact on deaths from tobacco is to step up cessation efforts and combine them with smoke-free policies," he said.

However, the treaty is "relatively weak on these issues".

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff