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Consumer Groups Target Tobacco Industry's International Lobbying Efforts

An international network of anti-tobacco consumer groups says it has new evidence of tobacco industry attempts to gain influence over public health policy. The group's report is being released as the World Health Organization holds negotiations on a global tobacco control treaty.

A study from the U.S.-based group Infact says the world's major tobacco companies are using a variety of lobbying techniques to undermine a global treaty that seeks to limit the use of tobacco. For instance, it says tobacco companies spend enormous amounts of money fighting anti-smoking legislation in developing countries.

In addition to fighting legislation that might limit tobacco use, the report says tobacco companies are also taking steps to make smoking as affordable as possible.

Bejon Misra represents a group called Consumer Voice in India and is one of those involved in the report. He says tobacco companies, to reach as many people as possible, sell cigarettes individually or in packages of two or five. The price for these smaller packs, he says, is much less than for a full pack of 20.

"The largest sale of cigarettes in our country is the loose single cigarettes being sold to the consumer," he said. "The youth especially have access to buying single pack from the vendor. This is one of the serious issues, which we are trying to find out in terms of how to make them get away from getting themselves exposed at an early age to this addictive product. And this is targeted mainly to the youth."

Activists from the developing world say tobacco holds no economic benefits for their countries, while posing great health hazards. They cite a World Health Organization report that shows that by the year 2030, 10 million people a year will die of tobacco-related diseases and 70 percent of these will be in developing countries.