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The BBC's Liz George
"The accusations include a 1998 plan to attack WHO anti-smoking initiatives worldwide"
 real 56k

Thomas Zeltner, Swiss Office of Public Health
"Tobacco companies had operated for many years with the deliberate purpose of subverting the efforts of the WHO"
 real 28k

David Davies, VP Philip Morris
"The inferences that there was any improper influences are simply not accurate"
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 02:11 GMT 03:11 UK
Tobacco giants deny smear tactics
cigarette production
Tobacco giants say they did nothing underhand
Tobacco companies have jumped to the industry's defence after the World Health Organisation (WHO) accused it of secretly campaigning to wreck efforts to fight smoking.

Among the allegations released in a report are that the industry tried to discredit the WHO and get its budgets cut, even that it secretly monitored meetings and obtained confidential documents.


There is nothing underhand or inappropriate about seeking to have our views heard, particularly when we have been deliberately excluded from the process

British American Tobacco
Tobacco giant Philip Morris confirmed it had paid scientists to attend WHO meetings but said it had done nothing improper to influence the organisation.

And British American Tobacco (BAT), based in London, said the report misrepresented the industry's legitimate lobbying activity.

The investigation, commissioned by the WHO last autumn, was conducted by Thomas Zeltner, director of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

'Nothing improper'

Much of its information was drawn from internal tobacco industry documents unearthed during legal action in the US.

The report details a 1988 plan headed by Philip Morris' chief executive Geoffrey Bible to attack WHO anti-smoking initiatives worldwide.

smoking
Smoking is less popular in developed countries, but rising elsewhere
The report concludes: "The tobacco companies' own documents show that they viewed WHO, an international public health agency, as one of their foremost enemies."

In addition, the industry managed to place its own "consultants" at the WHO to monitor its anti-smoking efforts, secretly monitoring meetings and obtaining confidential documents.

Philip Morris insisted that "inferences of improper influence are not accurate," adding that it neither altered WHO public health messages nor obstructed any WHO initiatives.

A senior executive of the company, David Davies, told the Reuters news agency that it was true that the company had scientists retained to secure information.

Negotiations

But he said there was nothing in the report or company documents to suggest anything improper occurred in relation to those activities.

"[There is] certainly nothing which in any sense influenced or undermined the activities of the WHO," Mr Davies said.


Of greatest concern, tobacco companies have, in some cases, had their own consultants in positions at WHO

WHO report
He noted that the company no longer employed third parties to gain information and has tried to hold dialogue directly with governments and multilateral bodies.

The report is being published just months before the start of official negotiations for an international tobacco control treaty, which could lead to strict controls on tobacco advertising worldwide.

Action plan

The report accuses the industry of working to convince the UN Food and Agriculture Agency that poorer nations should not emphasise anti-smoking efforts because tobacco was a lucrative cash crop.

The tobacco giants formulated an "action plan", claims the report, which identified 26 "global threats" to the industry and strategies to counter each of them.

Other damaging allegations suggest that Philip Morris and British American Tobacco orchestrated a "dirty tricks" campaign to disrupt a major tobacco and health conference in 1992.

Reacting to the report, BAT, accused the WHO of intentionally excluding the tobacco industry from dialogue on forming international policy.

"There is nothing underhand or inappropriate about seeking to have our views heard particularly when we have been deliberately excluded from the process," a statement released by the company said.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | Health
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'Treat nicotine as a hard drug'
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