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The BBC's Roger Harrabin
investigates whether pressure from the US could lead to the WHO adopting a softer anti-smoking treaty
 real 28k

WHO's spokesman Dr Derek Yack
"We have seen countries in [the developing regions] calling for much stronger measures"
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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 03:39 GMT 04:39 UK
Anger over anti-tobacco treaty
Cigarette
Many developing countries support a total ban on tobacco advertising
Campaigners are furious that the world's first anti-tobacco treaty seems unlikely to contain a total ban on advertising.

Detailed negotiations are due to begin in Geneva on Monday on the treaty.

Government representatives will hammer out the shape of a tobacco convention, sponsored by the World Health Organization, which aims to cut cigarette consumption and stem smoking-related deaths.


The provisions that are on the table for banning tobacco advertising are incredibly weak

Clive Bates, ASH
They will debate a draft treaty which proposes a ban on duty-free sales, restrictions on cigarette advertising to under-18-year-olds, and some anti-smuggling measures.

But anti-tobacco pressure groups say the draft text is too weak and fear it will be watered down during the week-long negotiations.

The BBC has learned that key UN staff have already rejected an outright ban on tobacco advertising to appease the Americans, who say it would be breach of laws on freedom of speech.

The draft has been drawn up by Brazilian diplomat Ambassador Celso Amorim. Brazil is the world's biggest exporter of tobacco leaf

Counter-productive

David Davis, European lobbyist for the US tobacco giant Philip Morris, said a total ban could also prove counter-productive for health.

He said: "We may have the ability to offer products with the potential for reduced harm. Is not important that we be able to communicate with those adults who do chose to smoke in relation to those products?"

Four million people die from smoking every year - a figure that is predicted to rise to 10m by 2030.

World Health Organisation spokesman Gregory Hartl says international action is needed.

"Because tobacco crosses so many borders, advertising crosses borders, smuggling crosses borders, there is a lot of trade in cigarettes. And these are things consequently which would justify an international convention against tobacco."

Draft proposals
Ban on duty-free sales
Restrictions on advertising to under-18s
Anti-smuggling measures
But anti-tobacco activists say the measures being debated do not go far enough.

They want a total ban on advertising as well as measures to hold the tobacco industry accountable in cases of smuggling.

Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking on Health (Ash), said: "The provisions that are on the table for banning tobacco advertising are incredibly weak.

"So much so that it looks like a sell-out to the American position - language almost that could have been spoken by the tobacco industry.

"We will be lucky if we can get language that starts this weak and ends up stronger through five days of negotiations."

Patricia Lambert, the South African government's health advocate, says the developing world will isolate the Americans, rather than adopt a weak convention on tobacco.

"America is just one country and I am absolutely certain that if the majority of the countries in the inter-governmental negotiating body persist, and out-vote America on this issue then the convention will be strong.

"The American government will have to decide whether it wishes to sign it or not."

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See also:

26 Apr 01 | Americas
US may abandon tobacco lawsuit
02 Aug 00 | Health
A global smoking battle
14 Jun 00 | Health
Europe's smoking shock tactics
11 Sep 00 | Health
Smoking addiction 'sets in early'
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