November 20, 2010

WHO Hopes To Put More Regulations On Tobacco Products

Over 170 countries at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Uruguay were taking up measures on Friday to regulate flavored tobacco products due to concerns that tobacco companies seek to get young people addicted to nicotine.

During the meeting of the signatories of the body's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, parties planned to define guidelines on tobacco product ingredients.

They sought to draft a protocol on illicit tobacco trade and debate pricing, taxation and controls of so-called electronic cigarettes.

"There are hundreds of chemicals used to make smoking more attractive, mainly focused on the young people," Antoon Opperhuizen, special adviser to the framework convention and vice-Chair of the WHO Tobacco Laboratory Network, told AFP news.

Canadian Cancer Society senior policy analyst Rob Cunningham told AFP that "tobacco producers are bringing more and more flavored cigarettes on the market -- with chocolate, vanilla and candy flavors that attract youths."

Representatives of the tobacco industry pitched a tent outside the hotel where the WHO meeting was taking place in order to present their views. 

Producers claim that flavored products represent half of global consumption and use three types of tobacco leaves:  Virginia, Burley and Oriental.  The producers worry that regulations would trigger bans of some of their most popular products.

"If we prohibit production of the American blend, which is made with a mix of Virginia, Burley and Oriental leaves, it will impact more than six million producers worldwide," said Antonio Abrunhosa, a Portuguese tobacco-farmer who serves as chief executive of the International Tobacco Growers' Association (ITGA).

Articles 9 and 10 of the framework call for guidelines to regulate contents and emissions of tobacco products, as well as measures to require tobacco manufacturers and importers to disclose information about the contents and emissions of their products.

The provisions would "basically eliminate production of Burley and Oriental tobacco, making it an act of discrimination that would not solve the health problem because people would keep smoking other tobacco products," ITGA vice-president Jorge Nestor told AFP.

He also said any proposal should allow production activities that would be "economically sustainable over time."

Uruguay is facing a lawsuit from Philip Morris for its anti-tobacco measures.  However, it received support Thursday from the framework convention's signatories.

The country is the first in Latin America to introduce a tobacco ban and the fifth worldwide.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and eight international organizations have also backed Uruguay in its dispute with the tobacco giant.


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