"Aggressive" tobacco firms threaten global health deal, warns UN chief

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"Aggressive” tobacco firms threaten global health deal. Photo: Caption of Unifeed/Who (file)

Ten years after a UN-led agreement was signed to curb global tobacco use, World Health Organization (WHO) experts say it faces unprecedented pressure from the industry's major producers.

Describing tobacco companies as increasingly "aggressive" in promoting their products, WHO's Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva said this was proof that the convention was working.

But the WHO expert has warned that despite successes in reducing tobacco use in the last decade, millions of deaths still happen every year as the market evolves with new products on offer.

With no less than 180 signatories, the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is a seriously powerful public health tool.

According to WHO, it's helped 80 per cent of countries who are party to the agreement bring in new controls on cigarettes – and make them 150 per cent more expensive, too.

If the convention is fully implemented, the UN says it could result in a 25 per cent drop in premature deaths from non-communicable diseases.

For Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, who oversees the convention, it's evidence of a "successful public health story" which covers 90 per cent of the world's population.

"It's important to highlight, this is about saving lives, six million lives lost each year to tobacco."

WHO's Dr Silva speaking there; she warned that the tobacco industry is fighting back against controls, spending billions on advertising, court cases and promoting new products, such as electronic cigarettes and waterpipes.

Equally worrying for the WHO is the challenge posed by the illicit tobacco trade, with an estimated one in 10 cigarettes in circulation believed to be illegal.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1"10


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