Worldwide Restrictions on Tobacco Possible

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Worldwide Restrictions on Tobacco Possible

GENEVA -- The World Health Organization last week concluded two weeks of meetings focusing on the "Framework Convention on Tobacco Control." The United Nations said that the international treaty, due to be adopted in May 2003 at the WHO's annual assembly, is vital to prevent annual smoking-related deaths from topping 10 million within the next 30 years.

WHO wants to stop young people from taking up the habit and to convince adults to quit through measures including price hikes, clearer warnings on packaging, prohibitions on the use of terms such as low-tar and mild, antismuggling measures, broader restrictions on vending machine sales and a possible ban on advertising. The WHO also wants to introduce the concept of manufacturers' liability, the Associated Press reported.

WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland has long demanded a total ban on all advertisements and promotional activity as the only effective way to stop tobacco targeting youth. But, of all the provisions, those related to advertising and marketing are the subject of the most debate.

Representatives from the U.S. and Brazil say that such a ban would violate constitutional guarantees of free speech. The Japanese government, which holds a 67 percent stake in Japan Tobacco International, also opposes the ban, as does Germany.