Tobacco: the governments meet again

DISCUSSIONS over the possible implementation of a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an anti-smoking treaty being promoted by the World Health Organisation, have just finished in Geneva. This was the fourth round of talks over the treaty an d concentrated on drafting the wording of the treaty document. But while the politicians seem to be content with the slow speed at which things are being achieved, anti-tobacco activists are unhappy that progress is taking so long. The talks have taken more than 18 months to reach the current situation and the WHO's hopes of having the treaty signed by May 2003 are looking fragile. WHO members now have until the middle of May to add new proposals to the texts being discussed and the draft treaty will be presented in July prior to a fifth (and supposedly final) round of talks scheduled to begin at the end of October.

The problems slowing down the treaty appear to be largely related to what should be allowed and what should not be allowed in terms of tobacco advertising with widely-differing views between the nations involved. There is pressure for a complete ban on all forms of publicity, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco companies but this would cause constitutional problems in a number of countries. There are also problems stopping tobacco companies from promoting their brands through other products (such as clothing) as this is taking the talks into issues of restrictive trade legislation. In addition to all this some countries are demanding financial help to help farmers who will be affected by a restricted tobacco industry.

The FIA has said that it will ban all tobacco advertising in motorsport from 2006 if the treaty is agreed.

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