May 4 2001
TOBACCO POSES A MAJOR OBSTACLE TO CHILDREN'S RIGHTS - REPORT
Tobacco poses a major obstacle to children’s rights, infringing upon their basic health and welfare, and exposing children to child labour in many parts of the world, said the World Health Organization (WHO) today.
Releasing a report entitled "Tobacco and the Rights of the Child", WHO encouraged countries to abide by the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by taking all necessary legislative and regulatory measures to protect children from tobacco, and ensure that the interests of children take precedence over those of the tobacco industry. Currently all but 2 countries in the world are party to the convention.
Around 4 million people die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses each year, with deaths expected to rise to 10 million each year by 2030. Many of tobacco’s future victims are today’s children. According to the report, 250 million children alive today will be killed by tobacco in the future if current consumption trends continue. Most people start using tobacco during adolescence and, sustained by an addiction to nicotine, continue into adulthood.
Tobacco use among young people continues to rise as the tobacco industry aggressively promotes its products to a new generation of potential smokers. Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars a year promoting a product that encourages children to take up a behaviour harmful to their physical, mental and social development, said the WHO report. Much of this promotion takes the form of powerful advertising that influence children and adolescents in their views on tobacco.
In addition to the impact caused by direct use of tobacco, children are also exposed to the harmful effects of second–hand tobacco smoke. With adverse health effects associated with even low levels of exposure, children everywhere suffer the consequences of exposure to second–hand smoke. Nearly 700 million, or almost half of the world’s children, breathe air polluted by second–hand smoke, said the report. In almost all cases they have no choice in the matter as they are unable to protest or protect themselves.
The issue of child labour is also dealt with by the report. Tobacco companies have been implicated in child labour in the major tobacco producing countries such as Argentina Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malawi, the USA and Zimbabwe.
Given the overwhelming scientific evidence attesting to the harmful impact of tobacco use and second–hand smoke on child health, as well as the widely documented targeting of children by tobacco companies implementing comprehensive tobacco control is not only a valid concern falling within the legislative competence of governments, but is a binding obligation under the Convention, according to the report.
Strong tobacco control policies will help prevent violations of the rights of children, particularly those relating to guarantees of basic health and welfare, and protection from child labour. Through tobacco control, Countries, both individually and collectively, can live up to their obligations under the Convention, concludes the report.
For an electronic copy of the report please visit:http://tobacco.who.int/en/youth/index.html
For further information, journalists can contact Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 4458. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. Email:email@example.com 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/