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Tougher Tobacco Rules Urged at Global Anti-smoking Talks

Health advocates called Monday for tougher regulations on tobacco, as officials from 145 countries met in Bangkok to discuss ways of boosting global efforts to stop smoking.

The week-long meeting organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aims to find ways of harmonising national laws to tighten tobacco controls, particularly limits on advertising and protection from second-hand smoke.

Hatai Chitanondh, the president of Thailand Health Promotion Institute, told reporters that although the kingdom bans tobacco companies from sponsoring sporting events, international competitions are not affected.

"Formula One, for example, has a big impact as they have three to four million people in Asia watching the F1 every year," Hatai told a press conference held as the talks got underway.

"The Formula One is sponsored by several tobacco companies, and the racing is broadcast to Thailand from other countries," he said.

"We need cooperation from other countries to put tough controls on this, on top of our attempts on the national level," he added.

Douglas Bettcher, the head of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, said free trade deals were also bringing down tobacco prices in many countries and contributing to a rise in consumption.

"With trade opening, low and middle-low income people are increasing tobacco consumption as more competition is bringing prices down. Tobacco companies are taking the loopholes of regulations," he told reporters.

"The government needs to implement tougher control measures to prevent a sharp rise in tobacco consumption," he added.

Health advocates also called for governments to open talks on a new treaty to fight illicit trade in tobacco.

The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) -- an international alliance of hundreds of tobacco control organisations -- estimated that the illicit cigarette trade accounted for more than 10 percent of the total global trade in cigarettes in 2006.

"Nations serious about protecting the heath and well-being of their people should take the illicit tobacco trade very seriously," said Luk Joossens, a senior policy advisor of the FCA.

"Smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes are sold at lower prices than legal products, contributing to higher consumption and greater rate of smoking-related illness and death," he said.


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