|Press Release WHO/65
4 November 1999
NOWHERE TO RUN NOWHERE TO HIDE
Geneva/San Francisco - The United Nations' top health agency today launched an unprecedented global campaign to counter tobacco industry deception around the world.
Called "Tobacco Kills Don't Be Duped," the campaign brings together senior health and media activists from 20 countries to join forces with tobacco industry whistle-blower Dr Jeffrey Wigand and California's successful anti-smoking programme to expose big tobacco's worldwide campaign of deception and lies.
"Every sleeping and waking hour from billboards, television screens, movies, radios and now the Internet, the tobacco industry beckons our children with messages that, whichever way you interpret them, say "give us this day your daily breath", said Dr Derek Yach, Head of World Health Organization's (WHO) Tobacco Free Initiative.
WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, has called tobacco a communicated disease communicated through advertising.The Don't Be Duped campaign will strengthen the ability of broadcast and newspaper journalists and other health communicators worldwide to sift facts from fiction about tobacco use, its spread and promotion.
Learning from California's successful counter-advertising campaigns and community-based actions, the campaign will make the case for health, enhance population health literacy, promote healthy choices, and most importantly, influence public policy so that robust tobacco control measures and strict regulation of the tobacco industry become a global reality.
"I know what the Tobacco Industry is like from the inside", said Dr Wigand at the launch of the WHO campaign. The former Brown and Williamson researcher turned whistle-blower whose life is portrayed in "Insider", a major Hollywood motion picture opening this week, added, "The tobacco industry has always had a wanton disregard for the truth; they've gotten away with it for decades in the United States and are still getting away with it in other countries. The impact of their lies is more death, disease and suffering."
Tobacco kills 11,000 people a day worldwide. By 2030, it will kill 10 million people a year, seventy percent of them in the developing world. "The United States should be trying to help other countries. Unfortunately, US tobacco companies are picking on developing countries to aggressively market their products products they know will cause death and disease," said Helen Brown of the American Cancer Society, which supported the campaign launch. Developing countries are now the target of the tobacco industry's expanding assault on global public health.
"In California you have blazed a trail. You have big tobacco on the run," Dr Yach said in a special session that linked the 20-century global health activists with 400 of California's top tobacco control leaders. "The Marlboro man is gone from here but he's running amok in other lands. Together we have to ensure that he has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide."
WHO's multi-pronged global campaign will build on hard evidence of what works in tobacco control. It will identify and disseminate success stories like California where a combination of community action and aggressive counter advertising has resulted in life and money saving public health policies. There are 700,000 fewer adult smokers. Lung and bronchus cancer rates have been reduced by more than 14 percent. For every dollar spent on tobacco control, there is a saving of $3 in the cost of direct medical services for illness caused by smoking in California.
Globalization of marketing and trade in tobacco products means that all countries need to take strong action individually and together if their populations are to become tobacco-free in the long run.
The WHO has begun work on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first public health treaty. Last week over 100 countries representing 93 percent of the world's population met in Geneva and called for strong global action against tobacco to complement national legislation.
The Don't Be Duped campaign will do a country-by-country search of the Minnesota documents in a bid to specifically identify, detail, report and make public information on the tobacco industry's subversion of science, economics and political processes at the local and regional level.
In a related development, the WHO is leading an UN-wide effort to ascertain the level of tobacco industry influence on global health and development policies.
The health activists gathered in California will spend two days in closed door sessions with Dr Jeffrey Wigand to identify the best ways to get insider information to the outside and into the hands of the people with power who can act decisively for public health.
For further information, journalists can contact Gregory Hartl, Office of Press and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 4458. Fax (41 22) 791 4858. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr Derek Yach, Programme Manager, Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO Geneva, Tel (+41 79) 217 3404, e-mail: email@example.com; or Darlene Colvin/Jennifer Morgan in California Telephone (1) 310 552 6922, from 2/11/99-5/11/99.
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.ch/