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Tobacco advertising spared ban in WHO draft treaty

The first draft of the World Health Organisation's tobacco control treaty, the world's first international public health pact, has been met with opposition from anti-smoking campaigners.

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The campaigners have criticised preliminary proposals for failing to include a total ban on tobacco advertising. UK pressure group Action on Smoking and Health accused the convention -- comprised of WHO officials and government representative -- of being in the pocket of the tobacco industry and that it had sold out to vested interests.

ASH said the draft treaty included "useless, un-enforceable and misguided provisions on tobacco advertising". It added it was impossible to define advertising targeted at under 18s, saying, "The chair's text has the US and, hence, the tobacco industry's fingerprints all over it."

US President George W Bush's administration has strong links with the tobacco industry and the Japanese government owns Japan Tobacco International.

However, British American Tobacco accused WHO of wasting public money on whipping up anti-tobacco sentiment and trying to impose unnecessary supranational regulations which undermined government sovereignty on tobacco control.

The treaty, as drafted, would commit countries to restrict tobacco advertising and promotion, phase out sponsorship of sporting and cultural events, clamp down on cigarette smuggling, put health warnings and other information on packets and prevent sales to under-18s.

Meanwhile, UK ISPs are lobbying the government to amend the tobacco advertising bill which treats them as publishers rather than simply vessels for information. They argue the bill contradicts European regulations and could create a framework for making providers liable for content accessed by their customers via the internet.

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