Draft of W.H.O. Treaty Would Ban Cigarette Ads
GENEVA, July 21 â€” Negotiators have drawn up a draft of an international treaty that would phase in bans on cigarette advertising and sports sponsorships by tobacco companies as part of the World Health Organization's campaign to curb smoking worldwide.
The United Nations agency's 191 member nations have been negotiating for two years to arrive at the anti-tobacco pact by a May 2003 deadline, with talks mired over whether to ban advertising and promotion of cigarettes globally. The health agency says tobacco use is a serious threat to global health, with more than 4 million people dying from smoking-related diseases each year.
The 22-page text proposes the gradual elimination of what the W.H.O. and many nations view as the pernicious use of advertising and sponsorships in the sports world, particularly in soccer and auto racing, but sets no timetable to achieve that goal. It also calls for eventual prohibitions on the duty-free sale of tobacco and for measures to combat cigarette smuggling.
"The ultimate objective is to eliminate the damage caused to public health by the consumption of tobacco," said Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa, Brazil's ambassador in Geneva and chairman of the talks, who said the draft text, completed last week, balanced competing views.
But antismoking groups dismissed the draft as too weak. The text "does so little that it protects the tobacco industry interests," said Nicole Dueffert, spokeswoman for the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Antismoking campaigners have charged that the Bush administration has worked to undermine some of the toughest proposals, particularly concerning the ban on cigarette advertising. The United States has opposed any across-the-board ban on grounds that it would violate American free speech guarantees.
The 15-nation European Union â€” except for Germany, which argued for less stringent provisions â€” favors global restrictions on all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products. African nations have also come out strongly in favor of strict advertising provisions. But Japan, a cigarette exporter, has opposed them.
The draft would require all nations that sign and ratify the treaty to draw up legislation "for preventing and reducing tobacco consumption, nicotine addiction and exposure to tobacco smoke." Subsidies for tobacco farming and manufacturing would be phased out, and eventually eliminated. Nations would also be required to show that such terms as "mild" or "low tar" on cigarette packs were not creating an impression that the products are less harmful.
On a less contentious topic, countries would commit themselves to combat cigarette smuggling, a provision supported by both Europeans and American negotiators.
Tobacco companies, which have been barred from attending the negotiating sessions, oppose flat-out bans on advertising, though they have agreed not to direct ads at young people. The W.H.O. has charged that the tobacco giants have been working behind the scenes to weaken the negotiating process, and has urged countries to file lawsuits in their own courts to recoup damage caused by smoking and to change the behavior of tobacco multinationals.
The agency has also enlisted sports figures and organizations to help push tobacco advertising out of sports, advertising that the W.H.O. believes is an important means of attracting young people to take up cigarette smoking.
The next meeting of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is set for October. After the treaty is adopted, it will go into effect when it has been ratified by 30 governments.
The W.H.O. estimates that the number of tobacco-related deaths will reach 10 million annually by 2030.