British American Tobacco urges ``cooperation'' on smoking health
LONDON (Reuters) - British American Tobacco (BAT), seeking to stave off global regulation on smoking and health, said on Tuesday it had proposed to the World Health Organisation ``a climate of genuine cooperation.''
The British-based cigarette maker said in a statement WHO proposals on smoking were fundamentally flawed and it urged the organisation, anti-tobacco campaigners and other tobacco firms to support its plan.
BAT is one of the world's top cigarette makers and owns US tobacco firm Brown and Williamson, which is one of a number of firms appealing against a Miami state jury's award of a total of $145 billion against the U.S. tobacco industry last month.
BAT urged ``a climate of genuine cooperation which will allow tobacco companies to apply their considerable knowledge and resources to assist government and other interested parties.''
WHO is trying to hammer out the world's first international treaty to curb tobacco use and ban its advertising.
``British American Tobacco now calls on WHO to commit to ongoing consultation and dialogue with tobacco companies and governments to develop national solutions--and offers to sign an agreement with the WHO to this effect,'' the company said.
It said its proposals would ``mobilise maximum resources and expertise'' and leave governments free to develop their own policies.
The gloves came off between the world health body and ``big tobacco'' earlier in August when WHO accused multinational cigarette makers of trying secretly to undermine its efforts to combat smoking.
WHO charged in a 240-page report that Philip Morris Co and other cigarette makers engaged in ``systematic efforts'' to ''undermine and subvert'' its anti-tobacco efforts.
The sides in the tobacco war have long been shadow-boxing through various initiatives, but now the battle is out in the open ahead of public tobacco hearings WHO will host in October.
WHO alleged cigarette makers fought its tobacco campaign by trying to cut its budget, pit other UN agencies against it and distort results of important scientific studies on tobacco.
The crusade against the tobacco industry is the initiative of WHO's new director-general, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norwegian Prime Minister, who took office in January 1998.
British American Tobacco Plc at that time said the WHO did not appear to want ``meaningful'' talks with the industry.
BAT's latest proposals listed a series of agenda points, including:
-- preventing youth from smoking
-- ensuring the public is informed about the risks
-- identifying lower-risk tobacco products
-- ensuring orderly tobacco markets
-- ensuring that appropriate controls are in place to promote these objectives in every country.