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World steps up anti-smoking action

Tuesday May 31st, 2011

Global campaigners were celebrating success today for World No Tobacco Day - with warnings about further battles in the campaign against the toll of smoking-related disease.

Some 172 countries together with the European Union have signed a World Health Organisation framework for tobacco control over the last eight years.

The signatories are obliged to take action to reduce smoking rates, protect non-smokers from tobacco harm and protect children and teenagers from becoming addicted to the habit.

WHO predicts that six million people will die world-wide from the effects of tobacco - with ten per cent of them not being smokers.

It cites progress in countries such as Uruguay, which now requires health warnings to cover 80 per cent of cigarette packs, and Iran, where all tobacco advertising is banned. China and Turkey have banned smoking in public places while Mauritius was the first African country to require packs to have pictorial warnings.

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: "More needs to be done for the treaty to achieve its full potential.

"It is not enough to become a Party to the treaty. Countries must also pass, or strengthen, the necessary implementing legislation and then rigorously enforce it."

Dr Douglas Bettcher, of WHO, admitted many countries were struggling to deal with the economic power of the tobacco industry.

He said: "Ever hungry for profits, the tobacco industry routinely tries to undermine governments' attempts to control the epidemic.

"Although some countries have begun to implement policies rejecting partnerships with the tobacco industry and making their interactions with the industry fully transparent, we would like to see more progress in this area."

In Britain campaigners urged European authorities to require all tobacco to be sold in plain packets with "graphic" pictures of health warnings.

The British government is set to launch a public consultation on the issue later this year.

Jean King, of Cancer Research UK, said: "The importance of continuing efforts to reduce smoking rates canít be overestimated. The next vital step in preventing more lives being lost to tobacco is to wrap tobacco in plain packaging. We know from research."

The campaign group Action on Smoking and Health said the tobacco industry was funding "front campaigns" to get round restrictions on its lobbying, giving cash to retailers groups.

Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "Businesses should wake up to the fact that they are being manipulated by the industry and see for themselves that they have nothing to fear from robust measures to protect children from tobacco industry marketing."

Tags: General Health | UK News | World Health

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