The director-general of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that she would like to see all tobacco companies shut down.
Dr. Margaret Chan, speaking at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, told delegates that "it's going to be a tough fight. We should not give up until we make sure the tobacco industry goes out of business."
Chan said cigarette companies use all kinds of tactics to try to undermine anti-tobacco laws around the world, including funding political parties and giving money directly to politicians.
"Governments wishing to protect their citizens through larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs or by introducing plainer packaging are being intimidated by industry's threats of lengthy and costly litigation," she said.
Two of the world's best-known billionaires, computer magnate Bill Gates and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced an anti-tobacco litigation fund to help countries pay for such court battles.
The WHO says tobacco use is falling and nonsmoking is becoming the norm around the world. It recommends that governments step up action against the tobacco industry's efforts to fight the trend.
Medical experts call tobacco use, including smoking and chewing, a major cause of such diseases as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They also say secondhand smoke causes cancer and other problems in nonsmokers.
The WHO says tobacco kills 6 million people a year.