“Death Clock” Starts Ticking Oct. 25

Oct. 20 1999

Geneva, Switzerland - While nations from around the globe gather to begin talks on the world’s first tobacco treaty, a coalition of public health and consumer rights’ organizations will remind them why they must take swift and decisive action: every eight seconds, someone in the world dies from tobacco-related disease. The point will be driven home by starting an oversized “Global Tobacco Death Clock” that will begin ticking as negotiations open on Monday, Oct. 25 and continue counting out tobacco deaths until an agreement is reached. The negotiations, convened by the World Health Organization in Geneva, will be the first attempt by governments to reach a global agreement on controlling the tobacco epidemic, which currently claims 4 million lives a year. The talks will address, among other issues, the tobacco industry’s aggressive advertising and promotional efforts in developing countries and efforts to regulate cigarette ingredients and packaging. The “Death Clock,” measuring more than 6 feet in length, will track the minute-to-minute death toll from tobacco-caused illness around the globe. Organizers intend to bring the ticking clock to every negotiating session to emphasize the continuing human toll of tobacco use. “This clock will be a concrete reminder to governments of how much is at stake in these negotiations,” said Bill Novelli, President of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “Every week, more than 50,000 people die from tobacco-related illness worldwide. We can and must put a stop to this.” “These talks provide a unique opportunity for governments to protect current and future generations from tobacco,” said Emma Must, Manager of International Campaigns for London-based Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). “We hope that governments will seize this opportunity to rein in the tobacco industry and stem the toll of tobacco-caused death and disease.” “Consumer, labor, human rights, faith-based and tobacco control organizations from around the world are joining together to advance a strong treaty that will reverse the global tobacco epidemic and ensure that the tobacco industry and its allies do not interfere with efforts to establish global standards regulating their behavior,” said Kathryn Mulvey, Executive Director of INFACT in Boston. ### Photo Opportunity: The Death Clock will be switched on to coincide with the opening of the talks on Monday, October 25th at 8:30 a.m. inside the main entrance of the Palais des Nations (UN Headquarters) in Geneva, Switzerland. Tobacco is an Enormous Global Problem Globally, approximately 4 million people die from tobacco-related illness each year. This is the equivalent of twenty-seven 747 airplanes full of passengers crashing every day. By the year 2030, 10 million people will be dying each year from tobacco use. By the year 2020, 70% of all deaths from tobacco will occur in developing countries, up from around 50% today. Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco each day. Based on current smoking trends, tobacco will soon become the leading cause of death worldwide, causing more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, automobile accidents, homicide and suicide combined. At the national level, tobacco use imposes significant economic costs on countries, with estimates for different countries ranging from .7% to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) lost annually. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control In May 1999, the 191 member countries of WHO unanimously endorsed the start of negotiations for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). If successfully negotiated, the FCTC would be the world’s first global agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control. Possible issues to be negotiated include: tobacco smuggling; tobacco marketing; minimum public health standards for tobacco exports, including packaging, health labeling and ingredient disclosure requirements; economic and environmental issues related to tobacco cultivation; tax-free sales of tobacco; and, measures to harmonize national tobacco taxes. In addition to potential benefits of the Convention itself, the process leading to passage of the FCTC is likely to: give new impetus to efforts to strengthen national legislation and action to control the harm caused by tobacco; raise public awareness of marketing tactics used by transnational tobacco companies abroad; mobilize national and global technical and financial support for tobacco control; mobilize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other members of civil society in support of stronger tobacco control.


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