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WHO chief urged countries to stand together against harassment from Tobacco Industry
WHO chief urged countries to stand together against harassment from Tobacco IndustryDr Margaret CHAN, Director-General of the World Health Organization urged countries to stand together against tobacco companies that are trying to "harass" them into softening their anti-smoking stance on Wednesday (23/11/2011). Australia, Uruguay, Norway and the United States were among the countries targeted by the tobacco industry over their measures to reduce smoking-related disease.

"Tobacco is the only industry that produces products to make huge profits and at the same time damage the health and kill their consumers," Dr Margaret Chan told officials at a public health meeting in Geneva. "How can we as an international community allow big tobacco to harass countries through legal gaps?" she asked.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris launched legal action against Australia's government Monday, hours after the country's Parliament passed new legislation banning all logos from cigarette packages because the Australian government has been unable to demonstrate that plain packaging will be effective at reducing smoking but this measure has infringed the rights and interests of their brand. The projected claim will be around USD1Billion.

Uruguay government requested for pictorial health warning labels which shall cover 80% of the area of the cigarette packs but Philip Morris expressed that their new measure had contravened their copyrights hence they have to take legal actions to International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Similar litigation was found in Norway as tobacco products could no longer be found at the points of sales with effect from 2010. Tobacco company claimed that there was lack of evidence to reduce cigarette smoking but restricted the principle of market competition as their customers could not compare different brands of tobacco products.

In the United States, tobacco companies have sued the Food and Drug Administration over requirements to feature graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking, saying the rules infringe their right to free speech. Since the case probably could not be settled in coming few years, the new measure would not be executed yet.

Tobacco promotion has been an important tactic for tobacco industry to attract new customers. They sponsored nightclubs and parties in Nigeria, Ukraina and Brazil, etc. The cigarette packs had been produced as a quasi-perfume vase with jewelry to attract female smokers. In addition, tobacco industry has been supporting research studies with an attempt to weaken the hazards and nicotine dependence caused by cigarette smoking.

In recent years, the number of smokers from western countries has been dropping as their global consumption has been dropping from 38% of 1990 to 24% of 2009. However, the consumption of cigarettes in developing countries has been increased to 76% in 2009 which had contributed to an annual 2% increment in global consumption. The total profit of four mega-tobacco companies has reached HKD327 Billion which indicated the major new markets have been shifted to these developing countries.

The global population of smokers is over 1 billion and 80% of them come from low and moderate income countries. Every year the number of deaths caused by cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exceed 6 millions, that means, one death in every 6 seconds. The projected number of deaths will surge to 8 millions in 2030.

Source : World Health Organization
Source of photo: Cancer Council Australia
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