UNITED NATIONS

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

In a sharp criticism of rich multinational tobacco companies with strong political and economic influence, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Gro Harlem Brundtland said they were the main obstacles in controlling the "tobacco epidemic" which accounts for 11,000 deaths a day.

At the launch of World No-Tobacco Day in Sanam Luang, Brundtland said health problems surrounding tobacco consumption could only be overcome with strong political will and public awareness. He pointed out that her organisation was trying to limit the use of tobacco, particularly among youths who get addicted before the age at which they can actually make choices. "What is freedom of choice if a 14-year-old starts doing something that they really don't know about. One can't talk about freedom of choice here," she said.

The former Norwegian Prime Minister said Thailand could be used as an example of how regulations could be issued to limit tobacco consumption. "The cost of tobacco in every country is higher than the gains," she pointed out, adding that the medical expenses of people with tobacco-related diseases was much greater than the income earned from cigarette sales.

The WHO has drafted its first international treaty entitled "WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control" which hopes to ban cigarette advertisements worldwide and put a stop to international cigarette smuggling.

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