Activists Seek World Advertising Controls On Tobacco
GENEVA (AP)--Global controls on tobacco advertising could help developing world workers, activists said Tuesday.
Advertising limits could indirectly create much needed jobs, said Mary Assunta, of the Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia.
"Buying two packs of cigarettes a day takes up to 30% of family income in some countries," she told reporters. "By cutting that spending they can buy other goods - which means jobs for people who make them."
But international tobacco corporations dispute that a proposed worldwide package of restrictions under negotiation in Geneva will do anything to cut demand from smokers.
"You can't simply switch off demand," British American Tobacco spokesman David Betteridge told The Associated Press. "We've nothing against regulation, but there will always be suppliers, and clamping down on big companies won't change this."
Dr. Prakash Gupta, of the Action Council Against Tobacco in India, said advertising controls in his country had led to economic growth in the states that implemented them.
"As spending patterns switch from tobacco to other products, new jobs will be created in other sectors," he said.
Developing country activists have targeted what they say are the effects of heavy cigarette advertising and alleged company influence peddling.
"There are 1.2 billion smokers worldwide, and 800 million of them are in developing countries," said Assunta. "That means the bulk of the world's smokers are poor."
She said tobacco control is mainly seen as a health issue in developed countries. "But in the developing world it's a poverty issue."
A new round of negotiations on an international tobacco-control treaty opened Monday amid disagreement on whether it will be strong enough to prevent cigarette-related deaths rising to a predicted 10 million a year by 2030.
Health campaigners said that a draft treaty to be discussed at the week-long meeting was weaker than expected. They voiced fears that it might be watered down still further, including by the new U.S. administration of President George W. Bush, which critics perceive as having links with Big Tobacco.
The treaty - sponsored by the World Health Organization - is meant to enter into force by 2003.
The text under discussion was drawn up by Celso Amorim, a Brazilian diplomat who chaired last October's first round of talks.
It would commit governments to ban "all forms of direct and indirect tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship targeted at persons under the age of 18," and to severely curb other advertising, including sports promotion. To the dismay of anti-smoking campaigners, however, it stops short of an outright ban on advertising.
An advertising ban has long been a priority of WHO and is supported by developing countries.
The tobacco industry is also harming the developing world's environment, said the campaigners.
"You need up to 40 tons of wood to cure one ton of tobacco," said Phillip Karugaba of Uganda's Environmental Action Network. Up to 12% of deforestation in southern Africa can be blamed on tobacco, he said.
The companies boast about reforestation projects, he said. But local people complain that the trees planted in Uganda by British American Tobacco were different from the ones they replaced which had provided cooking oil, he said.
But Betteridge said British American Tobacco was committed to repairing damage done during tobacco production.
"Since the early 1970s we've planted 250,000 hectares (617,750 acres) of trees, which makes us the biggest planter outside of the timber and paper industries," he said. "We always seek to plant indigenous trees."
He said tobacco was a profitable crop for small developing world farmers, and a vital part of the economy for many countries.