11th World Conference on Tobacco
CHICAGO (AP) - Thousands of health and other professionals have gathered this week to tackle a long-standing question: What's the best way to get people to quit smoking?
Two packs of cigarettes distributed in Canada display warning messages aimed a deterring people from smoking. Graphic images are among the anti-smoking tactics being discussed at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco.It is a daunting task for officials meeting in Chicago for the 11th World Conference on Tobacco.
Worldwide estimates of smoking-related deaths are no more heartening.
Officials at the conference say smoking will contribute to the deaths of 4 million people this year. If unchecked, they say those deaths will increase to 10 million in 2030.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland told a room full of the conference's 4,500 attendees that such figures should motivate ``a truly global debate'' on the tobacco issue.
Brundtland, director-general of the World Health Organization, also called for a unified anti-smoking approach: high cigarette taxes bolstered by hard-hitting anti-smoking ads, a ban on smoking in public places and increased access to programs that help smokers quit.
``We know what works,'' she said. By doing what works, ``we save lives.''
Already, some countries are taking action. In Norway, a pack of cigarettes costs more than $7, mostly due to taxes. In Canada, federal law requires cigarette packs to carry graphic images, including photos of a smoker's deteriorated lungs, heart or gums.
In October, Brundtland said, the WHO also plans to start work on a treaty for its 190 member countries. The treaty will seek to prevent the sale of cheaper, smuggled cigarettes and share anti-smoking campaigns and education materials with developing countries, which account for about 70 percent of smoking-related deaths.
An American Cancer Society study prepared for the conference found that, of 196 countries monitored, about half prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors and only about a third have access to pharmaceutical treatments for nicotine dependence.
Meanwhile, about a third of those countries have health warnings on their cigarette packs, with Canada's among the most graphic.
``We feel the cigarette pack is the No. 1 tool to reaching smokers and their families,'' said Norman Brown, director of regulations and compliance for that country's Tobacco Control Programme.
Brown said Canadian health officials decided to use the ``larger, full-color and graphic'' images because written warnings on cigarette packs are beginning to lose their effect. He also said that, while the number of smoking Canadians has dropped in the last five years, the number of young people who've start smoking has increased slightly.
Not everyone at the conference believes high cigarette taxes and anti-smoking campaigns will be enough to get people to stop smoking.
Lars Ramstrom, director of the Institute for Tobacco Studies in Sweden, said chewing tobacco may help hard-core smokers quit.
Ramstrom said a study found that ``snus'' - a moist, unfermented chewing tobacco popular in the Scandinavian country - helped smokers quit. He said early studies indicate that smoking tobacco is much more harmful to one's health than chewing it.
Some health professionals, especially those who treat tobacco chewers for cancers of the mouth, were troubled by Ramstrom's suggestion. But he said it was unrealistic to think everyone can quit ``cold turkey.''
``The real world shows us that's not the only way to go,'' he said.