Philip Morris Admits Smoking Deadly

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GENEVA (AP) — The Philip Morris tobacco company admitted Thursday that smoking is addictive and deadly and said it was in favor of global regulation of the tobacco industry — although it defended its freedom to sell cigarettes.

``We agree that smoking is addictive and causes disease in smokers,'' said David Davies, vice president of corporate affairs of Philip Morris Europe.

The comments came at the start of two days of public hearings hosted by the World Health Organization on a planned international convention to control tobacco and stem the epidemic of smoking-related deaths.

Of the 500 organizations which submitted written comments, some 177 were chosen to speak in the debate. They include prestigious medical associations, health campaigners, smokers groups, tobacco farmers and workers and — most controversially of all — tobacco multinationals. The vast majority of speakers highlighted the evils of smoking and spoke of their fears that tobacco companies will try to derail the planned convention.

Anti-smoking groups are furious that WHO even allowed tobacco companies to take part in the hearings.

``The tobacco industry will stop at nothing,'' said Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. ``It has staged the most devastating cover-up of scientific evidence. It has preyed on our kids and lied to the governments. It has manipulated nicotine and our political system.''

The American Lung Association has termed the tobacco company participation as the ``equivalent to having a fox guard the hen house.''

In Geneva, the tobacco companies are intent on stressing that they are responsible.

``Sensible regulation benefits society and consumers everywhere,'' Davies told a press conference.

Davies maintained that the company was in favor of tougher measures to prevent tobacco sales to youth — although he drew the line at a global advertising ban. He said much more would be achieved if the 112 countries which currently have no laws on the sale of tobacco to minors implemented legislation.

``We must ensure that adult smokers continue to be informed of the health effects of tobacco smoking, but remain free to decide to smoke,'' he said.

Davies said Philip Morris would share the findings of research into safer cigarettes with WHO on Friday. WHO officials have said they are interested in what tobacco company scientists have to say about progress toward less harmful cigarettes, but stressed that there is no other common ground between them.

The public hearings will not necessarily have any impact on the convention, as it is for governments rather than private organizations to negotiate. But it provides a high-profile platform for what it expected to be fiery debate.

WHO estimates that smoking kills more than 4 million people per year and says the toll may rise to 10 million per year by 2030 because of surging tobacco use in developing countries.


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