| World Health Organisation director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland. (AFP)
Geneva, Jan. 15 (Reuters): The UN’s top health official today applauded a new draft for an international pact against smoking, saying it should lead to a treaty with “muscle”, but health activists blasted it as too weak.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland, who has made the campaign against a habit that kills up to five million people a year a top priority, urged the agency’s 192 states to back the proposals.
“I fully endorse the revised text. It will be an important tool in the fight against cancers, heart disease and emphysema,” she told a news conference to present the document.
“I am confident we can craft a convention which both has muscle and that can be accepted by all,” added the former Norwegian Premier who ends her five-year term in May.
The world health body has warned that if nothing is done to curb smoking, annual tobacco-related deaths will reach 10 million by the late 2020s, with more than 70 per cent of victims living in developing countries.
But activists were sceptical about the latest bid in the WHO’s long search for an accord to wean the world off smoking.
Clive Bates of the British-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said that the draft, to be put to a sixth and final negotiating session of WHO states next month in Geneva, “falls way short” of what was needed to tackle the problem.
The US Infact anti-smoking alliance called it “too weak to reverse the global tobacco epidemic”. The text, drawn up by negotiating committee head, ambassador Luis Felipe Seixas Correa of Brazil, expressed concern at “the devastating worldwide health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke”.
In 38 articles, the proposed treaty spells out steps the states should take to “restrict” tobacco advertising, fight cigarette smuggling and deter young people from starting to smoke.
Talks on the planned Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first international health treaty under WHO auspices, were launched in 1999 and are due to end with formal acceptance of the new treaty at the May WHO general assembly.