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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK


Foreign Office ban on tobacco events

Foreign diplomatic staff will no longer be able to attend grands prix

Diplomatic staff working abroad have been forbidden to attend tobacco-sponsored events in a Foreign Office crackdown.

The ban was announced in the House of Commons by Health Secretary Frank Dobson who said that those in overseas posts could no longer 'promote tobacco products' by their attendance.

He said: "This is an important step forward in the global fight to tackle the horrendous toll on the world's health caused by smoking."

The new guidance has been sent to all embassies and consulates, which have also been told not to seek tobacco sponsorship for their own activities, and to support local anti-smoking campaigns.

Tobacco companies currently sponsor many sporting and cultural events abroad, such as concerts and motor racing grands prix.

The news was welcomed by Prof Gordon McVie, director-general of the Cancer Research Campaign.

He said: "The message must go out that the industry cannot buy credibility by clinging onto the coat tails of Foreign Office staff."

Call for price increase

The announcement comes on the day that a report from the World Bank revealed that a 10 per cent increase in the price of cigarettes worldwide would save millions of lives.

The report said that 40 million smokers would quit as a result, and 10 miilion tobacco-related deaths would be prevented.

[ image: The World Bank is encouraging countries to help smokers quit]
The World Bank is encouraging countries to help smokers quit
The World Bank stopped lending money to countries to finance tobacco production in 1991, and the report estimated that the number of smokers worldwide would rise from 1.1 billion now to 1.6 billion by the end of 2025.

It suggested that by 2030, tobacco was likely to be the single biggest cause of death in the world, and called for countries to ban tobacco advertising, and offer nicotine replacement therapy for smokers.

Amanda Sandford, the spokeswoman for anti-smoking campaigners ASH hailed the new guidance for diplomatic staff as the first example of government departments working together in the fight against cigarettes.

She said: "In the past the Foreign Office has been rather tardy in addressing tobacco problems - they see it as a trade matter and nothing else.

"I just hope that embassies will cooperate with this code of practice."

But Simon Clark, a director of smokers' rights group FOREST, said: "It just seems a bit over-the-top - they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

Shadow Health Minister Alan Duncan said: "We support any measures which will help reduce smoking, particularly among young people, but this isn't one of them.

"Labour are expert at producing shallow policies which grab the headlines but which ultimately don't make a difference.

"If they were serious about reducing smoking they would not continue to support European policy which subsidises massively the production of tobacco in several Mediterranean countries."

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