WHO Treaty Talks Fail to Produce Ban on Tobacco Ads
The latest negotiations on a pact to reduce the use of tobacco worldwide have failed to produce agreements on "some of the most contentious issues," including a global ban on tobacco advertising, as antismoking advocates "insisted that the Bush administration was echoing the tobacco industry stands," the New York Times reports. During meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, this past week, the World Health Organization has been attempting to "encourage" its 191 member countries to reach an agreement to "significantly" reduce tobacco use. The Times reports that a proposed advertising ban on tobacco products and attempts to eliminate "light" or "low-tar" cigarette labels were the "most disputed proposals," with the United States opposing both measures. U.S. delegates said that a ban on tobacco advertising would violate American free speech laws. Instead, the United States said the ban "should be controlled country by country." The Times reports that the U.S. position "appears to clash" with the 15-member European Union, which favors "global restrictions on all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products, and a total ban on cross-border advertising." Dr. Derek Yach, WHO's executive director for noncommunicable diseases, said the organization expects individual countries to enact advertising bans, but he felt a treaty "would close any loopholes." U.S. opposition to bans on the labeling of cigarettes as "light" or "low-tar" came as the National Cancer Institute released a study this week calling the labels "deceptive" because smokers assume that such cigarettes offer a reduced risk of lung cancer or other smoking-related afflictions. U.S officials did not comment after the conclusion of the talks. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director of the WHO, said "she was satisfied that progress had been made for talks next year" (Olson, New York Times, 11/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.