World: WHO Denounces Interference by Tobacco Industry

Publisher Name: 
Inter Press Service

GENEVA -- The tobacco industry exerted pressure in
Switzerland throughout recent decades to prevent the approval of
stricter measures against smoking, says a study sponsored by the
World Health Organisation (WHO).

The transnationals British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip
Morris, which dominate the Swiss market, were successful in their
efforts to control the country's tobacco-related legislation and
policies, says the report.

As a result, Switzerland has the lowest national taxes on
cigarettes of all Western Europe.

The laws regulating tobacco products, advertising and sales are
weak and have scant impact on tobacco industry practices.

In public places and work sites here, there are no protections
for non-smokers against the known toxic effects of second-hand
smoke.

The study, financed by the WHO, was prepared by doctors Chung-
Yol Lee and Stanton A. Glantz, both from the School of Medicine at
the University of California, San Francisco.

The WHO is attempting to obtain the endorsement of a framework
convention through which its 191 member countries commit
themselves to national legislative reforms that limit tobacco
consumption.

As part of that campaign, the United Nations agency ordered a
study of the tobacco industry's influence and tactics to frustrate
of health authorities' efforts to prevent smoking.

One conclusion of the research indicates that the industry
spent millions of dollars to undermine an epidemiological study of
the connection between second-hand smoke and lung cancer.

The Geneva-based WHO also conducted country-by-country studies,
the first being the report on the situation in Switzerland by the
US-based doctors.

Lee and Glantz show that an alliance between the tobacco
industry, advertising agencies and the communications media caused
the failure of two referendums, held in Switzerland in 1979 and
1993, on banning advertisements for tobacco and alcohol.

The tobacco companies maintain close ties with Swiss officials
and politicians and hold regular informational meetings with
political party leaders and groups of lawmakers.

Through these contacts, the tobacco industry obtains updated
information on the politicians' plans, which allows the
corporations to influence the decision-making process, maintains
the report.

More than 10,000 people die each year in Switzerland as a
result of tobacco use, a figure that represents one-sixth of all
deaths in this country of 7.3 million inhabitants.

Worldwide, according to WHO numbers, four million people die
annually from tobacco-related causes. The death rate will reach 10
million a year by 2030 if the number of smokers in developing
countries continues to expand at its current rate, says the UN
agency.

Several officials from the Swiss Health Ministry declared their
support for the report's conclusions. Ueli Locher, assistant
director of the ministry, outlined the responsibilities of the
executive branch and emphasised that ''it is the Parliament that
makes laws.''

Locher also reported that the Health Ministry has been the
target of systematic attacks by the tobacco industry and its
lobbying groups.

AMP Section Name:Money & Politics
  • 106 Money & Politics
  • 109 Tobacco