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WHO Director-General Calls For Greater Efforts To Reduce Tobacco Use

In a speech on Friday marking the fifth anniversary of an international tobacco control treaty, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called for government officials worldwide to increase efforts to protect their population from the harmful effects of tobacco, Reuters reports. “Tobacco kills more than 5 million people a year from cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, including about 600,000 from second-hand smoke, according to the United Nations agency,” the news service writes.

“Most alarming of all, tobacco use is actually increasing in many developing countries,” Chan said (Nebehay, 2/26).

Chan said developing countries represent the “‘new frontier’ for tobacco marketing, but were also the most vulnerable to its ill-effects and chronic disease due to the shortage of health care and poverty,” Agence France-Presse writes. “In these countries as elsewhere, girls and women are a market with attractive and lucrative growth potential, and they are likewise being targeted,” she said.

The 2005 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control “bans advertising and sponsorship, advocates tobacco taxes, legislation to make public places smoke-free and other restrictions” to help countries reduce tobacco use, according to the news service. The treaty has been ratified by 168 countries, according to the AFP (2/27).

Chan said during her opening remarks at the meeting “that the full preventive power of the Convention is far from being realized. For example, just slightly more than 5% of the world’s population is protected by national smoke-free laws” (2/26).

“Such bans were enforced in 17 countries, with Colombia, Djibouti, Guatemala, Mauritius, Panama, Turkey, and Zambia joining the list in 2008, the WHO said in December,” AFP writes. According to the WHO, 21 countries have tobacco tax rates higher than 75 percent of the retail price (2/27).