Third World Urged Throw Out Tobacco Firms
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A top global anti-tobacco expert on Friday urged developing nations, particularly those in Africa, to cut off their markets to tobacco firms fleeing health lawsuits and shrinking demand in the West.
Thomas Neslund, executive director of the U.S.-based International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (ICPA), said developing nations needed to take a tougher stand against tobacco use because it eroded their economic and human resources.
``The tobacco industry has not been fair with the Third World countries,'' Neslund told Reuters.
``Here we've got major problems that have been caused by an industry that's been saying it is responsible. If it is responsible, governments should hold it responsible,'' he said in an interview on the sidelines of the ICPA's 10th World Congress in Cape Town.
Tobacco kills around four million people per year globally, according to the World Health Organization. The body says that if current trends continue, 10 million people will die by 2030 -- over 70 percent of these in the developing world.
Neslund said the spate of lawsuits in the United States against tobacco firms highlighted one avenue the governments of the developing nations could take to fight the tobacco industry's effects on their economies and people.
``I think every government, now that America has broken the bubble, should look at the legal ramifications of tobacco use and where it is appropriate they should start proceedings for lawsuits against the tobacco industry,'' he said.
``It's now proved in America that cigarette smoking and tobacco is detrimental to your health in a number of ways. Further, the damage for the Third World in health costs from this is enormous,'' he said.
The developing world is seen by the tobacco industry as a key area of growth.
This follows the saturation of its Western markets, where it now faces a rising tide of claims by those seeking compensation from tobacco-related illnesses, deaths or health costs.
In October the World Health Organization (WHO) began talks to formulate an international treaty it says would be vital in curbing tobacco use and its advertising in the developing world. WHO hopes the treaty would be in place by 2003.
But Neslund said urgent action by individual countries was critical. ``The governments ought to stop advertising for tobacco for a start and they ought to stop giving the tobacco industry a free ride,'' he said.
South Africa -- with a population of 40 million and where tobacco-related illnesses kill 25,000 people a year -- last month unveiled a series of regulations it wants to implement by March. They outlaw tobacco advertising and smoking in public areas.
``Steps such as these are crucial and we hope South Africa can act as a springboard for the rest of the developing world to tackle the tobacco problem,'' said Neslund.