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Home > Business > PTI > Report

WHO wants worldwide ban on tobacco ads

Arun George in Agra | November 17, 2006 15:36 IST

Cross-border advertising, among the few remaining means available to cigarette companies to advertise, without violating laws, is something the World Health Organisation has trained its sights on in its battle against tobacco.

Banned tobacco-product advertisements on satellite television channels that are beamed across borders and the Internet are among the media that the WHO is actively trying to censor with the help of technology experts, Dr Douglas Bettcher, Coordinator of the Framework Convention Unit in the Tobacco Free Initiative told PTI.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Youth Meet on health in Agra, he said despite India banning tobacco-related advertisements, they could still be viewed on channels beamed from countries which had not taken up the guidelines prescribed by the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

For the Internet, the WHO is considering methods like blurring images or getting countries to block websites to not allow access to the advertisements.

For television channels, one of the suggestions was delayed beaming of the channels so that countries could monitor and censor the banned content. "However, the success of the WHO's efforts will be highly dependent on political and legal will on the part of member governments," Bettcher said.

He acknowledged that with countries like the US not banning tobacco-related advertisements, it would be difficult to control their propagation over media like the Internet.

After a meeting in Agra, WHO officials will prepare a set of recommendations that will be evaluated before they will be suggested for implementation in 2007.

India came in for praise for its implementation of the ban on advertisements of tobacco products and Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was appreciated for his initiative to ban smoking in films.

"The initiative to stop smoking in films is the first ever in the world and must be encouraged here and in other countries," Bettcher said. He also advocated the use of warning messages in films, which had scenes of cigarette-smoking or tobacco consumption.

The WHO is also considering stringent measures against the smuggling of cigarettes across borders, which was both illegal and harmful. These products are also usually cheaper and therefore more likely to be consumed by youth which we do not want," said Bettcher.

He said the WHO was working with tobacco companies in order to ensure tracking of cigarette consignments to ensure they were not diverted into the illicit trade.

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