WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION CALLS FOR PUBLIC HEARINGS ON TOBACCO
The World Health Organization (WHO) today called for public hearings on
issues surrounding the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and invited
interested parties, including the tobacco industry, to submit written comments and
''I invite all parties with a material interest in advancing
our public health goals to work with us in a constructive manner
in this way, this
debate remains in the public domain,'' WHO Director-General Gro Harlem
Brundtland said at the start of a two day meeting on the FCTC. The Convention the
world's first to deal entirely with a public health issue will be negotiated
by the WHO's 191 Member-States and is expected to be opened for signature no later
''We have started a global debate around tobacco. Our Member
States are eager to analyze the tobacco toll on individuals and governments and they are
equally eager to act on the evidence
let us see to it that ours will be the last
generation to face this scourge without hope,'' Brundtland said.
The two-day hearings in Geneva - the first such hearing in WHO history
- will take place in late September or early October, 2000. All submissions as well as all
testimony will be made part of the public record as well as being made available to
countries negotiating the FCTC.
The announcement comes as pressure mounts on countries to act on the
growing evidence that tobacco is emerging as the number one preventable cause of death and
disease in the next 30 years. Tobacco now kills over 4 million people annually. By 2030,
it will kill 10 million people, out of which seven in 10 will be in developing countries.
''The time for complacency is long past we have to act
fast and we have to move ahead in a responsible manner if we want to save
lives,'' said Derek Yach, a WHO Executive Director and head of WHO's
tobacco control programme, the Tobacco Free Initiative. ''We have to be
courageous and far-sighted and ensure that the global debate is driven by public health
concerns yet simultaneously addresses, in a responsible way, possible economic and social
implications of demand reduction,'' he added.
Pitted against the WHO's Member States is a global tobacco
industry that has failed to take public responsibility for the health consequences of
promoting tobacco, especially to minors and children. Documentary evidence emerging from
court cases around the world shows the tobacco industry as distorting scientific data and
muddying political processes to keep the truth about tobacco consumption from public
Worse, there is mounting evidence to establish that nicotine has been
manipulated to ensure that addiction occurs in minors and is maintained. New data from
Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Oman, Egypt, to name a few, suggests that
WHO may have severely underestimated the number of youths and children taking to tobacco
everyday. WHO officials say the galloping burden of death, disease and disability from
cancer, heart and lung diseases caused by tobacco will increasingly fall on developing
countries, which are least prepared to cope.
The hearings will give the public health community, and also the
tobacco industry and farmers, their opportunity to make their case before the public.
Formal FCTC negotiations between WHO's 191 Member States will
begin in October this year. Countries now have a catalogue of options for the FCTC, which
will deal with a range of issues including smuggling, advertising, taxation, regulation of
tobacco products and agricultural diversification.
This is the first time in its 52-year history that the world's leading
public health agency is negotiating a public health convention. Dr Brundtland identified
global tobacco control as one of her major priorities when she took office in July 1998.
For more information, contact, at WHO
Geneva, Gregory Hartl, Press Spokesperson, (+41 22) 791 4458, mobile (+41) 79 203 6715,
All WHO Press Releases, Fact
Sheets and Features can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int