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W.H.O. Adopts Sweeping Anti-Tobacco Treaty - 2003-05-21


The World Health Organization adopted a sweeping anti-tobacco treaty Wednesday aimed at reducing the number of smoking-related deaths worldwide. VOA TV’s Jim Bertel reports the treaty’s passage comes after 4 years of tense negotiation.

UN HEALTH AGENCY PRESIDENT
"The resolution and the W.H.O. Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are adopted and the fast report of the committee is therefore approved."

More than 190 countries approved the first ever international treaty against smoking aimed at breaking a habit that kills nearly 5 million people a year. The W.H.O.’s policy-making assembly unanimously approved the accord in a move the UN health agency’s Director-General – Gro Harlem Brundtland – described as historic.

GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, UN HEALTH AGENCY
“I think we all sensed there was a special sentiment in the assembly just now and that is because it is indeed an historic moment in global public health. Adopting this tobacco convention demonstrates the International will to tackle a global threat to health head on. Today we have been acting to save billions of lives and protect people's health for generations to come."

The treaty will ban or restrict advertising, introduce more prominent health warnings and control use of terms like “low tar” on cigarette packs. In particular, it aims to stop hard-sell tactics towards adolescents – an estimated 20 percent of 13–15 year olds worldwide regularly smoke – and strip tobacco of its image of being glamorous and cool. It also provides tougher international measures against passive smoke and supports manufacturer liability.

The text of the treaty was agreed upon March first despite U.S. objections that it did not allow countries to opt out of individual clauses. Yet, in an about face that surprised many anti-smoking activists, U.S. health and human services secretary Tommy Thompson told the assembly in Geneva that the United States supported the accord without changes or reservations.

TOMMY THOMPSON, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY
"We, and our outstanding partners, have worked very hard on this treaty and everybody should be congratulated on their success. Ladies and Gentlemen, together we can and we will make the global threat of smoking a thing of the past."

Developing countries have led the push for the convention, saying they need protection from tobacco multinationals who have switched their sales drives from already saturated western markets to Asia and Africa.

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