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International Health Leaders Agree on Efforts to Fight Tobacco Use Among Kids

Conclude First International Policy Conference with Consensus on Key Policy Measures
March 25, 1999

Washington, DC - Participants at the first-ever International Policy Conference on Children and Tobacco agreed late Friday to work both internationally and at home to reduce tobacco use and exposure among youth. The participants, representing 30 nations with about 75 percent of the world’s population, came to consensus on key policy measures that will “help children grow up tobacco-free.” “This historic gathering marks the first international effort engaging political leaders from around the world to combat the growing epidemic of tobacco use among kids – and what was achieved exceeded all expectations,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a sponsor of the conference. “Although we came from diverse countries with different problems and different levels of development, the participants all shared problems of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke among young people that were remarkably similar.” At the conclusion of the conference, the participants endorsed two clear statements about the need for action and reached general agreement in support of eight public policy initiatives that constitute a framework for action to reduce tobacco use. (A list of the eight policies is attached.) The two statements were: ? Tobacco use by children is an urgent public health concern that demands immediate action. ? There is a need to take action individually and collectively to counteract the problem on a global, regional and country-by-country basis. Dr. Gro Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered an opening address to the participants, urging them to “legislate and educate.” “The tobacco epidemic is a communicated disease,” Brundtland said in her address. “It is communicated through advertising, through the example of smokers and through the smoke to which non-smokers – especially children – are exposed. Our job is to immunize people against this epidemic.” The two-day conference at the Organization of American States (OAS) brought together legislators, ministers of health and other political leaders from 30 countries. Delegates were invited because of their ability to affect tobacco control within their respective countries. The conference included panel discussions focusing on the urgency and global magnitude of the problems associated with tobacco use among children, and the specific policies that have been implemented by different nations to address these problems. Panelists were chosen from among the top experts in tobacco control around the world. At the conclusion of the conference, there was general consensus among participants that this meeting was the first step. Discussions have begun for follow-up meetings regionally and internationally. Throughout the conference, participants shared experiences associated with the problems and costs of tobacco use in their countries, and offered examples of how they have worked to combat the problem. “The experiences shared during this conference have significantly increased the ability of each individual country to combat tobacco use among kids,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), another conference sponsor. “We all came out of the conference with renewed momentum to fight at home and to help abroad with this global epidemic.” U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) sponsored the conference, along with the American Cancer Society, American Public Health Association, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. International participants included WHO, UNICEF and the OAS. Note to reporters: please contact us if you are doing follow-up and would like additional information concerning the conference and its participants. The eight policy initiatives are attached. ### PUBLIC POLICY INITIATIVES At the conclusion of the International Policy Conference on Children and Tobacco, the participants reached agreement on the need for action. At a minimum, the participants agreed on the following actions to blunt the future impact of tobacco use on their countries. 1. Out of concern for children, end tobacco advertising, promotion, sponsorship and other tobacco marketing activities; 2. Strengthen and enforce laws preventing the sale of tobacco products to minors and place strong, prominent health warning labels on all tobacco products; 3. Regulate the manufacture of tobacco products and require tobacco manufacturers to disclose all compounds in tobacco products; 4. Hold the tobacco industry accountable for past and future wrongdoing through litigation and other actions; 5. Raise the price of tobacco products to discourage their use by children; 6. Protect children from environmental (second-hand) smoke; 7. Implement strong public health programs to reduce tobacco use among children and others, including community and school-based programs, public education and mass media approaches; and 8. Promote international minimum standards and cooperation through the adoption of an International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as proposed by WHO, and ensure that public health concerns are addressed in international trade negotiations.