WHO says time to get tough with tobacco giants

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea, Sept 10, 2007 (AFP) – A top World Health Organisation official on Monday urged the world to get tough with tobacco companies, saying smoking deaths are an international scandal. “The deaths and misery caused by smoking continue to be one of the greatest scandals of our time,” said Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

However, he said, the region has done “exceptionally well in fighting the tobacco scourge,” noting that all 31 member states have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

This calls for signatories to fight smoking with higher taxation, a total advertising ban and more education about health hazards.

“This sets out ways of battling tobacco use through taxes and other measures. Now it’s time for all of us to move from commitment to action,” Omi told a press conference at the start of a five-day WHO regional meeting.

“We hope that all governments will use the convention to get tough on the tobacco companies.”

Each day in the Western Pacific region alone, the WHO estimates, more than 3,000 people die prematurely from tobacco-related disease.

WHO director general Margaret Chan said economic damage fr