UN Launches Global Anti-Tobacco Campaign

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) Friday launched a global to campaign it says is aimed at countering "tobacco industry deception around the world."
Called "Tobacco Kills, Don't Be Duped," the campaign will sponsor global advertising and media campaigns designed to "expose big tobacco's worldwide campaign of deception and lies."
"Every sleeping and waking hour from billboards, television screens, movies, radios and now the Internet, the tobacco industry beckons our children with messages that, whichever way you interpret them, say 'give us this day your daily breath,'" said Dr. Derek Yach, head of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative.
WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland told reporters in Geneva that tobacco is "a communicated disease - communicated through advertising."
The initiative will also feature input from anti-tobacco activists around the world such as Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco company scientist featured in the recently-released movie The Insider.
While the campaign is billed as informational only, preparations are gearing up for a WHO tobacco conference in January aimed at implementing coercive measures such as advertising restrictions and worldwide tobacco taxes.
Negotiations on the guidelines for an international "Tobacco and Law" convention are underway in Geneva under the auspices of WHO. This comes after 50 countries pledged financial and political support for such a meeting at the 52nd World Health Assembly last May. Topics to be taken up at the meeting include international restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion, agricultural diversification, smuggling, taxes and subsidies.

It is expected that the convention will open in January.

Meanwhile, WHO has launched an investigation of tobacco company practices after reviewing internal industry documents released for public scrutiny after the industry settled a class action lawsuit with several U.S. states.

Claiming that the documents demonstrate that U.S. tobacco companies redirected resources to "to contain/neutralize/reorient the WHO" and "stop them (WHO anti-tobacco programs) in their tracks," WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland called for preliminary inquiry "into the nature and extent of the undue influence which the tobacco industry has exercised over UN organizations."

"Documentary evidence points to a systematic and global effort by the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco control policy and research and development within the United Nations family, including its member States, and within the academic and NGO (nongovernmental organization) communities," said Brundtland.

An attorney for a major U.S. tobacco company told CNSNews.com that the accusations from WHO were "ludicrous" and that the international agency was "being used by the politically-motivated Clinton Justice department."

It is expected that tobacco companies will not be allowed to attend the January convention. According to a release from WHO, the organization normally "values the input" of industry leaders in its investigations, but said that "tobacco falls into a different category" from other industries.