|Banks County Opinions...||
MAY 21, 2003
By: Rochelle Beckstine
There is no good reason to boycott the World Health Organizations (WHO) tobacco treaty. Smokers hear tobacco and they immediately jump on the opposed bandwagon, but I think they should know what theyre opposed to before making a decision.
As Americans we live in a privileged society and Im not just referring to material possessions. For many years now Americans have known that smoking and second hand smoke pose significant health risks. As consumers we are allowed to weigh the health risks with our need for some menial personal satisfaction that we will pay for with our pocketbooks and possibly our lives.
But not all human beings are so lucky. There are developing countries with no laws governing the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies can sell tobacco to minors and place their ads wherever they want and target whomever they want. They dont have to print warning labels on packages or inform anyone of the health risks associated with tobacco consumption. For the tobacco industry it is the untapped market.
As smoking levels in the industrialized nations have dropped below 30 percent, the tobacco industry has moved into developing nations and hooked millions on tobacco. It is a significant global epidemic. Put it into perspective in terms of world health. The Sars virus which has curtailed travel and caused hordes of people to cower in fear for their lives has killed 500. Tobacco killed more than 4 million people last year.
Tobacco has a known mortality rate of 50 percent compared to Sars estimated 20 percent. If left unchecked about 500 million people alive today will be killed by tobacco, making it the single leading cause of death on Earth.
To curtail this epidemic WHOs tobacco treaty would acknowledge the health risks associated with tobacco and impose regulations that have been in place for years in developed countries.
The treaty would mandate a minimum size for health warning labels on tobacco, ban ads and sponsorships except where such a ban would be unconstitutional (the United States), ban sales to children and protect non-smokers in public and work places by recognizing second hand smoke as a public health threat. The treaty would also provide more effective control for smuggling and would encourage nations to increase taxation to reduce tobacco consumption.
These may not seem like great concessions, but it has taken WHO four years of steady and protracted negotiations to get this far. And it is at this point that it needs the support of the American people. In August of 2000, WHO published a report documenting the decades-long campaign by the tobacco industry to thwart the development of tobacco control initiatives.
It concluded that: Tobacco use is unlike other threats to global health. Infectious diseases do not employ multinational public relations firms. There are no front groups to promote the spread of cholera. Mosquitoes have no lobbyists. The evidence presented here suggests that tobacco is a case unto itself, and that reversing its burden on global health will be not only about understanding addiction and curing disease, but, just as importantly, about overcoming a determined and powerful industry.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson, head of the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly, announced Sunday that the United States would support the initiative when it comes up for a vote in the World Health Assembly. Once approved, governments have a year to decide whether to ratify the treaty, but only 40 ratifications are needed.
Derek Yach, the WHO official who has led the tobacco initiative, said Sunday 30 delegations have already said they are committed to ratifying the treaty and he expects the last ten to be reached in six to 12 months. Thompson said he doesnt know whether Bush would sign the treaty or whether Congress would pass it, but his office is behind it.
A Democratic society like ours is purported to be would feel that all citizens should make educated decisions. But someone told me recently we dont live in a Democratic society, we live in a Capitalist society fueled by the almighty dollar. And Phillip Morris has a lot of dollars. Prove that Americans convictions are worth just as much as gold. Write your congressmen. Express support for a treaty that will take tobacco out of childrens hands and warn users about how lethal tobacco really is. Think about the 10 million deaths a year the WHO predicts if conditions do not improve. I dont want that on my head.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
By: Phillip Sartain
Cutting the cord
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