Global Efforts on Tobacco

The World Health Organization is campaigning for a global treaty to curb the promotion and sale of cigarettes. This UN body, which claims millions of people die yearly from tobacco-related illnesses, finds smoking has risen sharply in developing countries.

This humanitarian effort by WHO is admirable. Helping people to avoid addiction to a harmful product often requires a multination approach.

But the practical difficulties of drafting and ratifying such a treaty are considerable. Negotiations in Geneva recently ended with a hail of criticism aimed at those nations that are home to large tobacco companies.

The United States, along with Japan and members of the European Union, stands accused of being more concerned with the health of corporations like Philip Morris and British-American Tobacco than with public health in other countries.

There's an element of truth to that. So-called Big Tobacco still wields some economic and political clout in world capitals. But that does not mean there are not valid legal and constitutional problems raised by such proposed measures as a comprehensive ban on tobacco ads.

In the US, for example, "commercial speech," even for a legal but harmful product like cigarettes, is accorded a degree of First Amendment protection when advertising is directed at adults. But other parts of the proposed treaty are very much in line with US public policy, such as restricting advertising that targets youth.

Hopefully, an effective treaty can still be negotiated that affirms a global consensus on ways to curb tobacco promotion.

Meanwhile, nations can go much further on their own. Last week the European Parliament toughened laws on the marketing of cigarettes in EU countries and ordered a reduction of tar and nicotine levels. The new rules require that 30 percent of the front of every pack of cigarettes, along with 40 percent of the back, carry health warnings.

The decline of smoking in the US over many years shows what sustained efforts against tobacco use can accomplish. A global effort is now needed to support nations that want to prevent individuals from ever being attracted to cigarettes.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK