TO mark the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the product would kill more than eight million people annually by 2030. It, therefore, urged countries to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
The global health body has released a technical resource paper and brief based on 2008 guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to help guide countries on ways to combat tobacco industry interference.
Director General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, said: “In recent years, multinational tobacco companies have been shamelessly fuelling a series of legal actions against governments that have been at the forefront of the war against tobacco.
“The industry is now stepping out of the shadows and into court rooms, we must now stand together with these governments that have had the courage to do the right thing to protect their citizens.”
According to a report signed by Communications Officer of the WHO, Glenn Thomas, though more countries are moving to fully meet their WHO FCTC, the tobacco industry is increasingly churning aggressive attacks.
Significant issues in the WHO brief include:
• maneuvering to hijack the political and legislative process;
• exaggerating the economic importance of the tobacco industry;
• manipulating public opinion to gain the appearance of respectability;
• fabricating support through front groups;
• discrediting proven science; and
• intimidating governments with litigation or the threat of litigation.
Chan stressed that tobacco is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardio vascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.
The report noted that in non-smokers, exposure to second-hand smoke is estimated to kill another 600,000 people annually, almost half of all children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke and more than 40 per cent of children have at least one smoking parent.
Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative Department, Dr. Douglas Bettcher, said: “National leaders need to resist these tactics and use the full force of the Convention to protect the hard-won gains to safeguard people’s health from the scourge of tobacco.”