(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The World Health Organization is standing behind Australia’s efforts – against
international tobacco companies – to force the industry to go along with
prohibitions of attractive graphic images on its products.
director-general Margaret Chan urged the world at the 15th World Conference on
Tobacco or Health last week to “stand shoulder to shoulder” against the tobacco
industry’s attempts to overturn Australia’s new groundbreaking tobacco control
The Australian law requires tobacco products to be sold in “plain
packaging” – drab packages with graphic images of tobacco-related diseases and
without logos. It also requires graphic warnings of the health dangers of
smoking to be placed on cigarette packets.
Amos Hausner, head of the
Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, was in Singapore to attend the
conference. The Health Ministry did not dispatch any official state
representatives to the conference, unlike Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and many
African countries, Hausner said. He noted that there are now 174 signatory
countries behind the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and that these
nations included 87 percent of the world’s population. Israel ratified it in
August 2005, becoming the 77th country to do so.
Turkey was cited for its
vigorous effort to curtail smoking, and Norway was praised for passing
legislation requiring graphic health warnings.
Israel has not yet done
either this or require companies’s products to appear in plain
Hausner added that Israel has not implemented Section 5.3 of
the FCTC, which limits tobacco lobbying and requires full transparency and
reporting of all meetings of government officials and politicians with tobacco
Thailand has also been drawn to international arbitration
initiated by the tobacco industry on the basis of alleged violations of trade
agreements, Hausner said. The Ukraine was one of the countries opposing
limitations on the sale of tobacco products.
“There is a direct relation
between the implementation of article 5.3 and the success in the passage of
effective tobacco legislation in the respective legislatures,” the anti-smoking
activist from Jerusalem said.
The smoking rate among Israeli adults is
around 23%, compared to only 14% in Singapore and 11% in Hong
Hausner said that according to a recent publication, for each
person killed by the use of tobacco, the industry earns a revenue of $6,000, a
large amount considering that six million people die of smoking each
Hausner was especially interested in a scientific poster at the
conference by a “Dr. Maziak” of the University of Allepo in Syria about water
pipe (nargila or hookah) smoking. The researcher said that this smoking
technique is “potentially more dangerous in generating heart disease than
cigarette smoking. Unlike cigarette smoke, nargila smoke immediately increases
“We must make plain packaging a big success so that it
becomes the success of the world,” Chan told Prof. Jane Halton, secretary of
Australia’s Department of Health and Ageing, and other delegates to the
conference in Singapore.
Australia has been sued by tobacco giant Philip
Morris-Asia under a bilateral trade agreement with China, Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region. Separately, it has been sued in domestic court by the
Halton promised that Australia will defend itself
vigorously against both suits.
Chan congratulated Australia for its
determination in fighting tobacco industry intimidation. “If we stand shoulder
to shoulder, together, no tobacco industry can survive,” Chan said. “The fact
that they are so desperate, I take it as an indication that the industry sees
the writing on the wall. This is the death throe of the addicting
“Tactics aimed at undermine anti-tobacco campaigns and
subverting the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are no longer covert
or cloaked by an image of corporate social responsibility. They are out in the
open and they are extremely aggressive. The high-profile legal actions targeting
Uruguay, Norway, Australia and Turkey are deliberately designed to instill fear
in countries wishing to introduce similarly tough tobacco control measures,” she
Chan urged young people to use social networks to support