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Global Anti-Tobacco Treaty to Take Effect in 2005

An international treaty to reduce tobacco use will take effect February 28 in 40 countries. The treaty is aimed at curbing the harmful effects of cigarettes around the world.

More than 160 countries adopted the World Health Organization Convention (WHO) on Tobacco, but before it could take effect, the legislatures of 40 countries had to approve it. This week Peru's legislature approved the convention, triggering the international tobacco ban.

The 40 signatories of the WHO convention are bound to try to reduce smoking through a variety of measures, including bans on cigarette advertising aimed at teenagers, increasing taxes on the sale of cigarettes, stronger labels on cigarette packages and enacting laws forbidding smoking in public places.

WHO spokesperson Marta Seoana says such measures are needed because voluntary measures by tobacco companies to curb smoking, especially among teenagers, are suspect.

"The tobacco industry needs to continue selling cigarettes," she said. "Because they are in the business, that is the only way they are going to survive. And they are expanding in many countries, especially in the developing world. So I think governments need to take to lead and this is what they are doing with the convention, doing it with their own national programs."

WHO officials hope enactment of the anti-tobacco convention will encourage other countries that have not signed on to do so. The United States is among nations that have not ratified the treaty. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the U.S. is the world's third-biggest exporter of tobacco.

The World Health Organization estimates there are 1.3 billion smokers around the world. International health officials say half of all smokers will die prematurely because of tobacco use, which has been called the single, legal, preventable cause of death.