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WHO Promotes 'Tobacco-Free Sports' - 2002-05-31

The World Health Organization, WHO, says it is campaigning to make all sporting events free of tobacco. WHO, has chosen "tobacco-free sports" as its theme for World No-Tobacco Day.

The World Health Organization is marking World No-Tobacco Day on the same day the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup, kicks off.

WHO Executive Director, David Nabarro, says the organization has won an important battle in its fight to encourage people to stop smoking. He says this year's World Cup, for the first time, will be tobacco free. "Tobacco use will not be permitted in the stadiums where World Cup events take place," he said. "And, there will be major marketing of information about the dangers of tobacco use, both on television and at venues, in order to take the message to billions of people who will be watching the exciting football."

The World Health Organization warns deaths from tobacco-related diseases will increase to 10 million a year within the next 20 to 30 years, if preventive measures are not taken now. Most of these deaths will occur in developing countries. Mr. Nabarro says tobacco companies pump enormous sums of money into advertising and sponsoring sports events around the world. He says they know the association between tobacco use and sports will increase consumption. "Tobacco advertising is undertaken around sports through the sponsorship of sports to twist reality so that death is sold as life, disease is sold as health and deadly addiction is marketed as the taste of freedom and of excellence," said David Nabarro.

Mr. Nabarro says the World Health Organization is particularly concerned about the way in which tobacco companies use the images of top international athletes and events to sell their product.

He points to examples which include football in Malaysia and Uganda, snooker, golf and rugby in Britain, tennis in Canada and Formula One racing in countries around the world.