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WHO urges states to pool efforts against tobacco companies

May 31, 2012, 2:01 UTC+3

Tobacco kills almost 6 million people every year and is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death around the world

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GENEVA, May 31 (Itar-Tass) —— The World Health Organisation (WHO) will continue the fight against tobacco companies that have been increasingly active lately in torpedoing anti-tobacco programmes in various countries.

Tobacco kills almost 6 million people every year and is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death around the world.

“In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco. The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into court rooms,” says WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “We must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens.”

More countries are moving to fully meet their obligations under the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Governments are working to create 100 percent smoke-free, enclosed work and public places; to inform the public of tobacco harms through large and strong pictorial warning on tobacco packages; and to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The tobacco industry however, is hard at work to undermine the treaty, including taking governments to court. In fact, the governments of Australia, Norway and Uruguay are currently battling tobacco industry law suits in their national courts.

Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC urges countries to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. On World No Tobacco Day, WHO is releasing a technical resource paper and global brief based on 2008 guidelines for implementation of this Article of the treaty to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference.

“National leaders need to resist these tactics and use the full force of the Convention to protect the hard won gains to safeguard people’s health from the scourge of tobacco,” Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative department, said.

Tobacco kills up to half its users. By 2030, WHO estimates that tobacco will kill more than 8 million people every year, with four out of five of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs account for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide.

In nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand smoke is estimated to kill another 600,000 people annually. Almost half of all children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke and more than 40% of children have at least one smoking parent. In 2004, children accounted for nearly one third of deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.

Most adult smokers started the habit before the age 20. To recruit new smokers, the industry’s relentless marketing machinery targets youth, especially young women.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It was adopted in 2003 and now has 175 Parties.

On World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout the following year, WHO will urge countries to put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic.


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