WHO sets up smoking watchdog

The World Health Organization is to establish a permanent new tobacco control body, headquartered in Geneva, to ensure that as many countries as possible sign and ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The treaty was adopted by the 192 WHO member states in May 2003 with the goal of controlling tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Ratification of the treaty - which has currently been achieved by 124 countries - means that a member state is legally bound to implement the provisions.

Signatory countries have also agreed to set up panels to draw up legally binding guidelines on cross-border advertising and illicit tobacco trade.

"Cross-border advertising is a real problem when it originated in a country that has not signed the convention," says Denis Aitken of the WHO.

A group of experts will also study economically viable alternatives to tobacco growing and products for those countries whose economies depend heavily on tobacco production.

The WHO says that the treaty will save up to 200m lives.

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