Monday, July 24, 2006

New York Times Editorial - Take the tobacco pledge

New York Times Editorial - Take the tobacco pledge
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: July 23, 2006


Two years ago, the Bush administration did something uncharacteristic: It signed a treaty. The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, known informally as the tobacco treaty, is the first international treaty on health. It pledges nations to take specific steps to reduce tobacco use and about 130 nations have now ratified it - but not the United States.

The administration reaped the benefits of signing in an election year, but apparently it has no intention of asking the Senate to vote on the treaty. This is a shame, because it could reduce smoking.

Countries that ratify the treaty promise to limit or ban tobacco advertising, promotion and event sponsorship; raise cigarette taxes; enlarge warning labels on cigarette packs; move toward ending smoking in public places; crack down on tobacco smuggling; and make it more difficult for tobacco companies to influence legislation on smoking.

The treaty is sorely needed in the developing world. In the last 20 years, smoking rates have risen fast among women and teenagers, largely because tobacco companies moved aggressively into the Third World as sales stagnated in wealthy countries. The tobacco treaty has provided pressure to overcome companies' opposition to restrictions in these markets.
But in the United States, cigarette taxes are relatively low and warnings on cigarette packs much less conspicuous than elsewhere. Ratifying the treaty would obligate lawmakers to correct these and other problems.

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