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The BBC's Claire Doole
"Activists accuse the US of pandering to the interests of the tobacco industry"
 real 28k

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"
 real 28k

Friday, 4 May, 2001, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
No agreement on tobacco treaty
The US has been accused of trying to weaken the treaty
Health campaigners have criticised the US for trying to weaken the first ever international tobacco control treaty.

The treaty is meant to cut cigarette consumption through a package of measures such as clamping down on advertising and promotion, price hikes, action against smuggling and tougher environmental controls to prevent second-hand smoking.

The US contribution has been entirely negative

Clive Bates, Action on Smoking and Health
The World Health Organization, which is sponsoring the treaty, hopes it will slow the increase in tobacco-related deaths, expected to rise from 4m to 10m in the next 30 years.

But week-long negotiations on the content of the treaty ended on Friday without a satisfactory agreement being reached.

Government negotiators will meet again in the autumn to try to find a solution acceptable to all sides.

But Clive Bates, director of the UK anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said it would be best if the US pulled out of the negotiations entirely.

He said: "The US contribution has been entirely negative - weakening, delaying and deleting anything that might have substance.

"It's very unlikely that the United States will ever ratify a tobacco treaty, so why shape it around what they want?

"It would be best if the US delegation goes home from Geneva, adopts its increasingly familiar ostrich stance and stays out altogether."

Slow progress

Celso Amorim, chairman of the talks, said there had been no progress during the Geneva meeting.

He said governments had focussed on adding their comments to a draft text rather than actually negotiating.

Mr Amorim, a diplomat from Brazil, said he would now incorporate all the observations into a new text.

He said he was still hopeful that the treaty might come into force as planned by 2003.

He said: "It's very important that we keep the target date as it's a matter of urgency. It has to do with people's health and it can't be postponed."

But anti-smoking activists said some countries were putting tobacco company interests before health.

Ricardo Navarro, of the Network for Accountability for Tobacco Transnationals, said: "We are concerned that the United States and Japan are adopting positions which would clearly benefit the tobacco companies."

US officials denied charges that Washington wanted to weaken the treaty.

Delegation chief Tom Novotny said: "The administration feels strongly focussed on public health - especially prevention in kids and stopping smuggling."

But Vince Willmore, of the US-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said the US delegation was trying to weaken a variety of provisions including:

  • a proposed ban on labelling claims like low-tar, light and mild
  • an end to duty-free sales
  • a ban on smoking in public places like discotheques
Mr Willmore said US delegates were also trying to shift big chunks of text from the main convention to optional protocols.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Health
Anger over anti-tobacco treaty
26 Apr 01 | Americas
US may abandon tobacco lawsuit
02 Aug 00 | Health
A global smoking battle
14 Jun 00 | Health
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11 Sep 00 | Health
Smoking addiction 'sets in early'
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