WHO repeats call for worldwide tobacco ad ban

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GENEVA -- The World Health Organization is repeating its call for a worldwide tobacco advertising ban as it launches World NoTobacco Day 1998, set for May 31.

The global event is dedicated to children and themed ``Growing up without tobacco.'' It will be officially launched in Rio de Janeiro. The country of Brazil is the world's biggest exporter of leaf tobacco, but also a country with what the WHO says is an ``effective'' public health program.

Dr. Fernando Antezana, deputy director-general ad interim of the WHO, says that ``unless tough actions are taken immediately, the tobacco epidemic will prematurely claim the lives of about 250 million children and young people alive today.''

To ensure the health of children is protected and promoted, ``tough decisions against tobacco are needed, including a total ban on tobacco advertising,'' according to the WHO.

Joe Cappo, newly elected International Advertising Association world president and senior VP-international at Crain Communications, hit back at WHO's proposals, stating that the IAA is opposed to any ban on tobacco advertising, ``as long as cigarettes are legal to make, sell and use.''

But the WHO argues against the freedom of tobacco companies to advertise their products, claiming that ``by the time [young smokers] are old enough to make an informed choice, their addiction undermines their freedom of choice.''

An Europewide ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship is to become law this summer, after the final vote was passed in the European Parliament May 13.

Existing smokers are encouraged to quit the habit on World No-Tobacco Day.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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