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From mgraffis@islands.vi Wed May 16 15:43:09 2001
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 08:17:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <mgraffis@islands.vi>
Subject: World Health Organization slams Big Tobacco
Article: 119983
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

World Health Organization slams Big Tobacco

By Jonathan Fowler, AP, 14 May 2001

GENEVA (May 14, 2001 8:09 p.m. EDT)—A top U.N. official on Monday told government delegations from around the world that Big Tobacco’s quest for profits is putting an unacceptable burden on health care worldwide.

Millions of needless and preventable deaths are caused by an unhealthy hunt for profits, said Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the 191-nation World Health Organization.

Society is left to pay the cost of treatment and lost productivity, Brundtland told the opening meeting of the World Health Assembly, which brings together WHO’s members each year.

Tobacco use is a communicated disease, she said. Tobacco should not be advertised, glamorized or subsidized.

Brundtland, a former Norwegian prime minister who has campaigned against smoking since talking over WHO three years ago, said tobacco related illness is one of the biggest health threats facing poor countries.

There is no alternative to a global accord to control tobacco, she said. A round of discussions on a WHO-sponsored tobacco treaty in Geneva ended earlier this month. WHO aims to have the pact in place by 2003.

The treaty, which the agency hopes will slow an expected increase in tobacco-related deaths, is meant to cut cigarette consumption through price increases and clampdowns on advertising and smuggling.

But the treaty has met with resistance from the tobacco industry, which has said global control is not the answer, and has criticized WHO for failing to consult with the industry.

Brundtland said it was not WHO’s job to take sides in all health controversies. But, she said, in the case of tobacco a particular approach is clearly associated with the promotion of ill-health and suffering.

She praised global pharmaceutical companies for showing willingness to work with AIDS activists, referring to poor countries’ demands that patent rules for AIDS drugs be relaxed to allow cheap versions to be produced and treatment costs to be cut.

Last month, major pharmaceutical companies dropped a joint lawsuit against the South African government, which had been aimed at blocking a 1997 law allowing the import or production of cheap generic drugs.

Brundtland said there had been widespread relief after the settlement of a very controversial struggle involving people’s lives and futures.

But she said the international community needs to do more, urgently, to fight HIV/AIDS. We cannot wait another decade while HIV/AIDS affects more and more people from Africa, China, India, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

International funding for the fight against AIDS, and diseases like tuberculosis and malaria should reach $10 billion a year, Brundtland said.

Delegates at the World Health Assembly, which ends May 22, are expected to discuss other health issues ranging from smallpox eradication to mental illness. They elected Dr. Hang Sun Huot of Cambodia as president of this year’s session.