One hundred countries representing 4.5 billion people have signed the global treaty aimed at curbing tobacco use, which now claims nearly 5 million lives every year and causes an estimated annual net loss of $200 billion in treatment and lost productivity, the United Nations health agency reported today. The milestone was reached with this week’s signatures by Ecuador and the Republic of Congo of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires countries to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls and strengthen legislation to clamp down on tobacco smuggling. WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook praised the signatories for protecting their populations from tobacco-related diseases. He called on all remaining nations to sign the Convention, the first international treaty negotiated under WHO auspices, and on all signatories who have not yet ratified it to do so. The FCTC will enter into force and become legally binding 90 days after the 40th ratification. So far nine countries have ratified it. Three months remain before the end of the signature period. After that, nations can directly adopt the treaty as law without having signed it in a process called “accession.” At the time of its unanimous adoption last May by WHO’s 192 members, the agency warned that the annual death toll of 4.9 million, if left unchecked, could double by 2020. The tobacco epidemic is still expanding, especially in developing countries where currently seven out of every 10 tobacco-related deaths occur, according to WHO. At current rates, the total number of tobacco users is expected to rise to 1.7 billion by 2025 from 1.3 billion now. The European Community (EC) has also signed the treaty as a regional economic integration organization, while its member states sign and ratify the treaty individually.