Taiwanese Human Right to Health Needs to Be Protected by International Law


World Health Organization (WHO) has passed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003 and put it into practice in 2005. FCTC is WHO’s first treaty with legal effect of international law. Regulations like a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, price and excise increase, health warning required on package surface and second-hand smoke control are all inclusive in this treaty. It is soon recognized by all countries. Up till today, 181 nations join as Parties to the Convention, among them there are 168 signatories. The convention aims to control tobacco use to defend human right to health for children, pregnant women and general public. Tobacco control is now a global consensus.

Full Engagement to Guarantee Citizen Rights

With efforts from NGOs, administration and legislation, Taiwan president approved WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on March 30, 2005, issued instrument of participation and expected to join as a Party. Although Taiwan was blocked and excluded as a signatory under political issues, we proactively implement what have been guided in the Convention. For example, we started by amending Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act, increasing the health and welfare surcharge, expanding restricted areas, requiring health warnings in the form of pictures, regulating product display, restricting tobacco in places jointly used by three or more persons, promoting 2nd generation smoking cessation plan, releasing no smoking at public transport stops (launched by local governments), etc. These measures protect Taiwanese human right to health and are aligned with international human rights standards.

Great Success with Tobacco Control, More Efforts into Healthcare

With joint efforts of both public and private sectors, the adult smoking rate dropped from 32.5% in 1988 to 15.3% in 2016, representing more than half of decrease. Adolescents smoking rate has also been well controlled. Smoking rate for junior high school students dropped from 6.6% in 2004 to 3.7% in 2016, and same goes with senior high school students, dropped from 15.2% in 2005 to 9.3% in 2016. Taiwan is now gradually stepping towards WHO-NCD target of 30% reduction in tobacco use by 2025. Social tobacco control network is established thanks to the efforts invested by public and private sectors. It decreases tobacco accessibility, expands non-smoking areas and helps smokers to effectively quit smoking.

Not a Signatory, Share no Legal Effect of International Law

On May 12, 2005, through the good offices of Tuvalu, in the name of Republic of China(Taiwan), Taiwan sent the ratification instrument to the UN for deposit. At the time the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan showed no response and no rejection to our application. However, current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quoted The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758(XXVI)and claimed that Taiwan cannot participate in UN treaty system.

As a non-signatory, the convention Taiwan approved has more of a psychological impact than any real benefit. It represents the self-disciplines and policies in line with the convention established by legislators. Huge gaps stay in front of us as to striking against international illegal tobacco trades, preventing tobacconists from manipulating public health policies and exchanges on international tobacco control policies. Being rejected by international organizations also leads to passive action towards our Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act, leaving it 10 years without amendments. Moreover, Taiwan has no regulations on flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes, nor do we rectify the problems accompanying with population health. Unfortunately, Taiwan is not alone stuck in such situation. Many other nations have suffered from the same dilemma. If FCTC makes no adjustments to incorporate various types of tobaccos, there will be a leak in regulations and health promotion. It may make the convention lose its binding power and authority, extending to concerns about health of our next generation.

Every Taiwanese Shares the Same Right to Health

NGOs have been critical as information communicators in Taiwan for quite a long time. With their participation in various international communities, Taiwan is able to make amends for the gaps in tobacco control. Taiwan exists today as a sovereign state. 23.58 million people’s right to health should not be overlooked by the global community. If Taiwan can take part in international meetings as we deserve to be, exchange precious experiences with other nations, elaborate how we implement health policies and share our NGO campaigns in Asia, it would be helpful and resourceful for promoting universal health. Challenges faced by developed nations, such as aging and prevalence of noninfectious diseases, have made tobacco control even vital in fighting against chronic illnesses. We expect that one day, people in Taiwan can share the same and equal right to health as the rest global citizens.


  1. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
  2. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control introduction from Health Promotion Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare世界衛生組織菸草控制框架公約。 國民健康署。
  3. Instrument of participation to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 「世界衛生組織菸草控制框架公約」加入書。https://law.moj.gov.tw/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=Y0000047
  4. Tobacco Control, Health Promotion Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare菸害防制。 國民健康署。
  5. President Ma signed human rights treaties, document delivered to UN by our allies, Coolloud 馬總統人權公約批准書 由友邦送至聯合國。 苦勞網。
  6. Good job on tobacco control? EU standards: 69 points, Taiwan People News臺灣菸害防制做得很好?依照歐盟標準:69分。 民報。
    Image by mrcolo from Pixabay 
李懿軒 藥師
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