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International Conference on Governance of Tobacco in the 21st Century

Imagine, for a moment, that a plague has ravaged the Developed World, but has not yet established its grip on the Developing Nations. If the world's leaders in public health came together for two days at Harvard to map out a campaign to prevent the plague's spread, wouldn't you want to cover that meeting?

February 26 and 27, under the auspices of the World Health Organization and Harvard University, representatives of more than two dozen nations, the African Union, the European Union and numerous other public health and international organizations will meet at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, in Cambridge, MA, to lay the ground work for preventing one billion projected deaths by the end of this century all caused by the spread of tobacco smoking to the Developing World.

The major purpose of the conference is to prevent the global tobacco industry from using its wealth and power to thwart passage of laws based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) in developing nations. The industry undermines national laws through trade challenges or complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming that they violate trade treaties.

Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and former Health Minister of Mexico, has said that "to end the tobacco epidemic once and for all, we must clearly present the facts that tobacco wreaks havoc on both public health and the economic health and development of nations. The two are interdependent. This meeting presents an enormous opportunity to prevent the plague of smoking from ravaging the developing world as it already has ravaged the more developed nations."

And Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Chairperson of the African Union Commission, has called on the conference leaders "to prevent the global tobacco industry from transferring the burden of tobacco-induced death and disease from developed countries to Africa."

"Thanks to the tobacco industry, tobacco use killed 100 million people last century," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "If we don't become more aggressive towards the industry, they will claim one billion people this century. We know how to stop this pandemic - with good science, good governance, and political determination. The question is, will we take the necessary steps to do so?"

In addition to Frenk, Dlamini-Zuma, and Seffrin, presenters at this two day conference will include Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Vesile Kulaoğlu, Director, Trade and Environment Division, World Trade Organization and Nicola Roxon, MP, Former Attorney General and Minister of Health of Australia, as leading academics, public health officials, and anti-tobacco campaigners from Russia, India, Kenya, Canada, Chile, Thailand, and other nations.

Contact: B. D. Colen
Harvard University

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